Best of the Week
of Oct. 1, 2000

Best of Week Archives

Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of Oct. 1, 2000, as selected by Y? These postings, as well as "Best of the Week" entries from previous weeks, also can be found by accessing Y?'s new database using the search form, or, in the case of answers posted before April 24, 1999, in the Original Archives (all questions from the Original Archives have been entered into the new database as well). In the Original Archives and the new database, you will find questions that have received answers, as well as questions still awaiting responses. You are encouraged to answer any questions relevant to your demographic background, as well as to ask any provocative question you desire. Answers posted are not necessarily meant to represent the views of an entire demographic group, but can provide a window into the insights of an individual from that group.

First-time users should first make a quick stop at Y?'s guidelines pages for asking and answering questions.

 


Question:
Can anyone tell me about the practice of chewing qat (a mild narcotic) in Yemen? I've heard this is done only in Yemen. Please tell me about the history, cultural signifigance and actual experience of this activity.
POSTED 9/28/00
Dennis B., Bismarck, IL, United States, 45, Male, Native American, Straight, Over 4 Years of College , Lower class,Mesg ID 9280021304

Responses:
Our local paper (Minneapolis) had an article on qat chewing. It was about Somali immigrants living in Minneapolis who continue to chew khat - which apparently has a stimulant effect - even though it is illegal. The article made it sound like qat is addictive and that it's a big problem in the Minneapolis Somali community.
POSTED 10/4/2000
Nicole, Minneapolis, MN, United States, 30, Female, White/Caucasian, 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 10200120605
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Question:
For gay couples, some questions I've often wondered about but haven't been able to ask: Do committed gay couples sharing a household typically spend the night together - same bed, bodies entwined? Does the frequency of sex drop off with time in gay relationships, as it does in heteorosexual relationships and marriages? Would you prefer your straight friends and coworkers sidestep any comments or queries that relate to personal matters - or at least let you make the first move in that direction?
POSTED 9/29/00
J. Williams, Kansas City, MO, United States, 54, Male, White/Caucasian, Straight, 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 822000124207

Responses:
My impression is that many gay couples do sleep together almost all of the time, like heterosexual couples. But given that we have to write our own rules, you will find that there is more variety than the 'heterosexual model' among gay relationships. Some couples might not live together, or might have a concept of 'commitment' that does not always involve sleeping together; it may involve sleeping with other partners. With all people, I guess, there is some drop-off in frequency of sex as the relationship matures. Life's like that for all of us, I suppose, regardless of sexual preference. For myself, I do not mind questions about personal matters, as long as the asker is prepared to accept a fairly frank answer. I will not 'push the envelope' in the workplace, but I answer honestly when asked, as long as the situation is not obviously threatening. I do notice that many straight people are very surprised at this, and sometimes a little uncomfortable.
POSTED 10/4/2000
Ben S., Sydney, NA, Australia, <bscaro@hotmail.com>, 32, Male, Buddhist, White/Caucasian, Gay, Internet Investigator, 4 Years of College , Lower middle class, Mesg ID 1010015853

One of the greatest misconceptions about gay people is that we are completely unlike straight people. Although the differences are obvious, our likeness to heterosexuals is much more profound. We are attracted to someone, we court them, we fall in love and move in together, and sometimes, we commit to each other in a ceremony (although not a legal one, yet). I have been with my partner for three years now, and I am more in love with him today than ever. We live together and sleep together. We start and end every day with a kiss, and I can count on one hand the times we haven't fallen asleep in each other's arms. I'm very lucky. But just like heterosexuals our sex lives vary by person and by couple. Some have very active sex lives, and other's have sex lives that have dwindled. Like heterosexuals, the daily stresses of living, work, maintaining a household, paying bills... can take its toll on a couple's sex life. And children can impede on the frequency and quality of intimate relations as well. (Yes, some of us have kids too). As for questions or comments about our 'personal matters' by friends and co-workers, the same guidelines of propriety that govern such questions to straight people should apply to gay people. It would be equally inappropriate to ask a co-worker questions of a sexual nature, regardless of their sexual orientation. Having said that, though, being gay should not be thought of as a dirty little secret. As a gay person, I would welcome questions from heterosexuals if it would lead to greater understanding, tolerance and acceptance from the straight community.
POSTED 10/4/2000
G. P., Salt Lake City, UT, United States, 36, Male, Agnostic, White/Caucasian, Gay, Events Planner, Over 4 Years of College , Upper middle class, Mesg ID 101200050828

The best answer I can give your questions is no definitive answer, because each committed gay couple is unique, just as each straight committed couple is unique. For example, we have one bed, and we toss and turn just as any other couple in the course of a night. I would like to answer your third question first: My co-workers and friends know I am in a committed relationship, and they ask me (or don't ask me) any personal questions they would or not ask anyone in a straight relationship. The general rule of thumb, I feel, is that if you wouldn't want to answer the question yourself, don't ask the question of anyone else. I can't answer your second question; I've never been in a straight, committed relationship.
POSTED 10/4/2000
Dennis, Boston, MA, United States, 42, Male, Taoist, White/Caucasian, Gay, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 1022000122007

Yep, your average les/gay/bi person is just as likely to snuggle up with and fall asleep in the arms of his or her lover as your average straight person. And I reckon the statistics on 'bed-death' look about the same for gay and straight couples. The main day-to-day difference between your average l/g/b marriage and straight marriage is that the roles in the house are handed out based on who is best at them or wants them, not on the basis of who's male or female. For example, my wife does the cooking because I am a useless cook and don't enjoy it. I do the food shopping because I am much better at finding good deals and nice ingredients. She does the 'spider-catching' when they find their way into the apartment, and I clean the floors. Know what I mean? Of course, every couple is different, whether straight or gay. As for whether co-workers should sidestep or ask, it depends on the question. Obviously there are some things I consider to be none of their damned business, no matter how 'understandingly' they ask. On the other hand, I have had good friends ask stupid questions like 'Is one of you the man' because they wondered, and in that case I prefer people ask than go around with a big question mark in their heads.
POSTED 10/4/2000
Iteki, Stockholm via Dublin, NA, Sweden, 24, Female, Recovering Catholic, White/Caucasian, Lesbian, student, High School Diploma , Lower middle class,Mesg ID 102200043538

Hate to debunk another slander against gays, but our relationships, other than the fact that they involve same-sex particpants, are the same as straights. Yes, we sleep together, yes, we cuddle, yes, we want the best for our family and friends, yes, we fight, and yes, we make up. Some of our relationships are long-term with only the same partner, and some of have partners who commit adultery. With respect to the questions, as with anything personal, there should be some level of decorum. Also, what is your reason for asking? If it is to be a friend, that is one thing. If it is to be a meddling soul/gossip-seeker, they would probably rather have you keep a social distance. as would most people.
POSTED 10/4/2000
Matthew, New York, NY, United States, 42, Male, White/Caucasian, Gay, Actor, Over 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 1032000110419

To answer your questions in order: Most committed gay couples sharing a household typically spend the night together. Some don't; their relationship may have changed from more of a romantic/passionate relationship to more of a roommate/platonic relationship. Some couples share a household and have an emotional connection but maintain an open relationship that allows them to see other folks. Depends on the couple. 'Same bed, bodies entwined'? Again, depends, but generally, yes, the way most straight married couples do. On the amount of sex over time, again, I'd bet there are some parallels there between long-term straight couples and long-term gay couples (though I'm always a believer in quality over quantity). I don't have any problems with friends talking with me about personal matters, the same way I would talk with them. Co-workers ... not necessarily. But then, I wouldn't talk with a lot of my co-workers about personal matters.
POSTED 10/4/2000
Chuck, Raleigh, NC, United States, 37, Male, Catholic, White/Caucasian, Gay, Copy editor, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 93000111743

My partner of 18 years and I rarely sleep apart; only if one of us is ill and needs the extra space and quiet. Even then, I just don't sleep soundly without her body cuddled next to mine. I think sexual frequency varies from couple to couple, for both gay and straight relationships. Suffice to say that when we're both 'in the mood,' we plan to have time for ourselves. Sometimes it's frequent, sometimes not. It does not bother me if straight co-workers ask questions. If it's too personal, I gently make that known. However, the only way to bust a stereotype is to confront it with the truth. Example: BIG MYTH: Gays are pedophiles. Fact: Every report by every state and federal agency throughout the United States denounces this in black and white. My partner and I try hard to lead by example and not copy bigoted behavior by repeating it toward another person - even if that person behaves in a hateful manner. Somedays this is difficult; but, we feel it is important.
POSTED 10/4/2000
Alma, Kempner, TX, United States, Female, Methodist, White/Caucasian, Lesbian, contract employee, 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 9300054040
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Question:
Why do people in the United States view aspects like drinking and sexuality differently than European countries seem to?
POSTED 9/26/00
D.T., Salem, NH, United States, 18, Female, Catholic, White/Caucasian, Straight, High School Diploma , Middle class, Mesg ID 925200021156

Responses:
Puritanism. But it does beg the question, Why is Western Europe so sexually liberal, while so many others (e.g. Chinese, Indian, American, Arabic) remain conservative?
POSTED 10/4/2000
Scott M., Humacao, Puerto Rico, NA, United States, 24, Male, Unitarian, White/Caucasian, Straight, engineer, Over 4 Years of College , Upper middle class,Mesg ID 1022000105729

Foucalt wrote a great book called A History of Sexuality. His thesis is that Americans are obsessed with the DISCOURSE of sexuality. He then takes us through Puritanical times, the Victorian era and all the way to MTV videos today. It makes sense; the Dominatrix and Born-agains have one thing in common; whether they approve or not, Americans like to talk about having sex AND about NOT having sex. Our media is far more saturated with sexual imagery than the European one and ironically, our cultural values are far more stringent (repressive, some would say) regarding sexual practice. I think other cultures treat sex as a healthy, normal part of life. In the States we have lifted the discourse to some obscene pedestal where we examine it from all angles. I think the European model falls more in line with Nike, i.e. 'Just do it.' I believe the same applies to eating in the United States. Europeans just eat, they stay relatively thin, relatively healthy. We obsess with food and sprout obesity and anorexia like it's going out of style. I also think, to some degree, the same goes for drinking; some moral judgment has been placed on it so it can be lifted to the same ugly pedestal that sex lies upon. Sometimes I think for a nation riddled with therapy and wealth, Americans are seriously out of touch with themselves, with their basic normal functions, even with their own bodies. It's a weird twist.
POSTED 10/4/2000
Lisa, Los Angeles, CA, United States, 25, Female, Christian, White/Caucasian, Straight, 4 Years of College , Upper middle class, Mesg ID 102200041436

The real explanation may lie in the fundamentalist, literal interpretation of 'Biblical' Christians - so common in the United States, so uncommon outside it. But there are cultural things: wine in southern Europe accompanies food, and children drink small amounts of wine from an early age. Spirits (whiskey, vodka, etc.) are not used by many people. In Europe, 18 is the age of adulthood in law, and of universal access to places where alcohol is served. If you mean that Europeans seem to accept premarital and extramarital sex, you are right. Acceptance is there, but many people do not do it, preferring to remain faithful.
POSTED 10/4/2000
Kent, Melbourne, NA, Australia, 58, Male, Episcopalian, White/Caucasian, Straight, Consultant, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 102200041922

There are several factors, the foremost being American tradition, namely, Puritan roots. The Puritans were the original Americans and so set the standards for accepted behavior, especially in regard to sexuality and alcohol. Both of these became ways to rebel against that mindset, and so America has always been facinated by, and expressed strong opinions on, both. The 'usual' seems to be we're facinated by sex but won't talk about it, encourage drinking by almost everyone but condemn drunkenness. I submit, as further examples, the sheer number of sexually enticing ads and at the same time the large number of sexual harrassment suits (not unwarranted). On the other hand, when I was in Europe this summer, although able to drink, I felt no particularly strong inclination to do so. Europe has accepted sex and alcohol as an ordinary part of life.
POSTED 10/4/2000
Alex, Elkins Park, PA, United States, <first_wizard@hotmail.com>, 17, Male, Jewish, White/Caucasian, Bisexual, High School student, Less than High School Diploma , Middle class, Mesg ID 9300094828
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