Friday, November 27, 2009 | By: BlackGargie

How to Spot a Mary Sue

My chat friend Hine showed me a link that is pretty useful tips for budding fanfic writers. I can't remember what's the original link, but I did copy-paste the article for my own safe-keeping, so here it is:

How to Spot a Mary Sue

by Josephine Darcy

Lately I've been reading a lot of fiction in the Harry Potter fandom -- a fandom that seems to spawn Mary Sues rampantly. Granted, unlike many of the other fandoms I read, Harry Potter has a very diverse age group of writers -- many of the writers (some of them extraordinarily talented) are extremely young. To that end I can forgive some of the Mary Sue cameos -- but it still quite frustrating. The worst thing is when she shows up unexpectedly 20,000 words into a story that's REALLY good. And then suddenly there she is, in all her annoying glory, and the reader is left wondering why someone would do such a horrible thing?

I think the biggest problem is that many new writers (and even some old writers) don't quite know how to recognize her. They create a character, insert her (or him) into their story, and then moan and complain when people accuse them of creating a Mary Sue. "But it's not a Mary Sue," the writer protests. "It's just a character I made up....who happens to be the best friend of Draco Malfoy....and really pretty .... and really sarcastic....and really interesting...."

Actually Mary Sue doesn't need to be 'really' anything. Frequently writers will attempt to make her 'plain' or 'ugly' just to disguise the fact that she's a Mary Sue. What they fail to notice is that she's typically 'really' pointless.

Incidentally, if you see a summary for a story that mentions a new character along with the disclaimer "I promise this is not a Mary Sue", it is probably a Mary Sue.

But I need a new character!!!!

As a writer I understand that you often need an outside character to advance your plot. You need the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher to threaten Harry. Or you've killed off Belatrix Lestrange and need another woman just as twisted to do something really nasty. Or Harry has been thrown in Azkaban prison and you need a guard for him to talk to --- I get the necessity of requiring 'new' characters. The problem is in the details and whether or not a character like this already exists. The following are some of the most typical places where Mary Sue appears.

The Unnecessary Mary Sue:

Scenario: Harry needs to vent about the horrible beatings he received at the Dursleys. Draco needs to confess his unrequited love of our boy hero. Snape needs a drinking buddy to unload his troubles on.

In this case you need your main character to talk or confess his or her secrets-- you need to get information across to the reader and the best way to do it is by using dialogue between your main character and their best friend. I can almost guarantee in all cases here that if you 'invent' a character, it will be a Mary Sue. The problem with this scenario is all these people already exist. Harry already has a best friend -- Ron. Or Hermione, or Hedwig, or Ginny. Draco already has a long list of 'friends' he can choose from as well -- if he needs a best friend then pick Blaise or Pansy or Crabbe or Goyle. There is no reason to invent someone when there are so many 'real' characters already waiting in the wings to take that position. (Snape would NEVER unload his troubles on anyone . . . so right there you have a problem.). Even if one of the standard characters won't work, you could always pick one of the talking portraits. It doesn't have to be a new character that we've never heard of.

The Most Extreme Mary Sue:

Scenario: Harry has suffered a horrible summer locked in the closet at the Dursleys. Dumbledore has just informed him that the Prince of Vampires (Snape) is demanding he marry him, and Harry is facing the end of the world as he knows it -- suddenly the Order of the Phoenix arrives at the Dursley's house to take Harry away to meet his bloodsucking husband-to-be and we're treated to 5 pages of dialogue about what a wacky and crazy driver the newest member of the Order happens to be.

Another way of identifying a Mary Sue is based on the description of their looks, their language, their behavior or their powers. One of them will be extreme or exaggerated. There's a bizarre trend in the Harry Potter fandom to make Mary Sue a bad driver or a crazy broom pilot or more accident prone than Tonks. Writers assume that by giving the character a flaw they can 'prove' it's not a Mary Sue. The moment a character shows up on the scene and someone begins complaining about what a bad driver she is, I know we've got another Mary Sue. Why would you waste several paragraphs (or pages for that matter) having characters quip back and forth about what a bad driver so-in-so is? What's the point? The fact that the new female Auror, who is going to escort Harry to the Prince of the Vampires, is a wacky individual who snaps off quick one-liners and sarcastic quips does not advance the plot at all -- it detracts from the main characters and main plot of the story.

The Mary Sue Shop Clerk:

Scenario: Harry decides to change his image and become a goth (okay, this is a plot that really annoys me in the Harry Potter Fandom . . . in a world like the Potter Universe why would anyone play-act at being dark and dreadful when the real thing already exists??). He goes into a goth store, only to discover a girl (or a boy) working at the counter who is willing to give him a complete makeover. Suddenly we're being treated to the life history of the store clerk. Harry becomes best friends with the store clerk. They start going to clubs together. Turns out the store clerk's sister is really a witch. The store clerk has a magical tattoo that makes her more powerful than Dumbledore....

You get the picture? I remember reading a story where Snape and Harry went into store to buy new clothes for Snape. Later Snape also had a makeover at a salon. Both times the writer introduce non-Mary Sue creations who actually managed to advance the plot. The man in the clothing store flirted with Snape and attempted to get his phone number -- which made Harry a bit jealous and stroked Snape's ego. And the bizarre cast of characters in the beauty salon made the Fab 5 look conservative and boring. Not a Mary Sue in sight --- in both cases, the characters walked onto the stage, did their thing, and then walked off . . .end of story. We weren't treated to exposition about the characters' backgrounds or life histories (we don't care about them -- we care about Harry and Snape), and we weren't treated to unnecessary dialogue about something that didn't matter. That's not to say that Snape didn't talk with them -- he did -- but the dialogue was used to develop Snape's character, not the strangers'. And in both cases the characters were never mentioned again -- which is as it should be.

The problem starts when the characters linger -- or introduce our hero to their friends. The store clerk becomes a focal point in the story. First off, store clerks aren't this helpful. Second -- we don't care about the stupid store clerk!!!! Get back to the part about Harry. That's why we're reading the story in the first place.

The Mary Sue Relative:

Scenario: Draco's cousin shows up at the manor and proceeds to annoy him to death.

I've actually read a couple of great stories about invented relatives. One of the best stories I read in the Harry Potter fandom was about a relative of Sirius' who was a necromancer. She had all the makings of a Mary Sue -- especially since a huge portion of this very long story was about her. And yet the writer managed to flesh out a fascinating and very believable addition to the Potter Universe -- no easy task. This writer did so without once making you stop and think 'Mary Sue'. So why was an outside character acceptable in this instance, but not in others? It has to do with the fact that she never once moved 'above' any of the main characters. She was necessary to the plot -- ultimately they required her necromancy ability to resurrect Sirius from the Veil. It's when these characters suddenly usurp the rightful place of another character that they become Mary Sues.

For example it's perfectly believable that Draco has a cousin. It's perfectly believable that the cousin might spend the summer with Draco. But the moment this cousin begins dominating the scene (best one-liners, most sarcastic quips, powers that Draco doesn't know how to respond to, mind-controls Lucius, defies the Dark Lord and lives) that's when he or she becomes a Mary Sue. I don't care if the mysterious cousin defies the Dark Lord and refuses the Dark Mark. What I'm interested in is how Draco might react to the cousin's behavior. We don't need to know the cousin's motivation or angst ridden dialogue or thoughts; we just need to know what Draco is going to do, what Draco is thinking, how Draco is going to react when the cousin dies a painful death (if the cousin doesn't die a painful death we now have a Mary Sue Voldemort which is even worse than a Mary Sue).

The Wise and Powerful Mentor Mary Sue:

Scenario: A new defense against the Dark Arts teacher arrives at Hogwarts and teaches Harry how to harness the mystic abilities of the Power Rangers. Our brilliant, but somewhat deranged DADA teacher will shock and amaze the students of Hogwarts, tell Dumbledore that he's wrong and doesn't know what he's doing, save Harry from Voldemort, seduce Snape, or Remus, or both, and then finally reveal that she's really a vampire and suffering a tragic life and everyone feels so sorry for her that they resurrect Sirius Black so that he can show up and marry her and live happily ever after.

It's perfectly reasonable to expect to see a new DADA teacher each year -- I don't have a problem with that. But unless it's a DADA teacher we already know like Remus or Snape or Umbridge -- why make the person a main character? If you need a mentor for Harry, pick one that already exists -- like Dumbledore or Remus or the ghost of Salazar Slytherin. Why invent ANOTHER mentor -- Harry has enough of them as it is? I remember reading a story where the new teacher was a brilliant but odd, old man with a long beard and wacky personality quirks. He was more powerful than Voldemort, manipulated everyone around him and took over the leadership role in the fight against Voldemort. So basically, he was Dumbledore, only with a different name. What's the point??? Just use Dumbledore if you need a powerful old man to give Harry advice.

The Wise and Powerful Evil Mentor Mary Sue:

Senario: Same as the one above, only she's really evil and threatens our boy hero.

I'm all for coming up with creative new bad guys -- and it even fits the Rowling's approved plot if the bad guy in question is the DADA teacher. But don't drown us in the details!! If you need a bad guy to threaten Harry, then just keep the character in the background until needed for a dastardly deed.

Take Umbridge for example. Umbridge was a brilliant bad guy. In fact I'd go so far as to say that I think Umbridge was nastier than Voldemort -- but did J.K. Rowlings torment us with her life story or long pointless history that we don't care about? No -- she came to Hogwarts, she bored the students, she acted ineffectually, she tormented Harry, and then she got stomped on by centaurs. Every scene she was in existed to show how Harry or one of the other main characters reacted to a situation she created. We know she liked the color pink -- but we were never bored with the reasons for this. We know she gave a very long boring welcome speech, but thankfully we didn't have to listen to it. It was enough to say that the students had to listen to it -- Rowlings didn't need to write out the speech for us to read. The moment you start giving a new character more lines than the main character you run the potential of creating a Mary Sue.

The Mary Sue who Suffered More than Anyone:

Scenario: A new girl shows up at Hogwarts. She's been beaten, raped, held captive by pirates, tortured by Muggles, turned into a dark creature by Voldemort, and has a bomb in her head that's going to destroy the world unless she overcomes great adversity and makes everyone feel really sorry for her.

Please!!!!!! The Potter universe has a great potential for suffering. You can do absolutely unbelievable things to the characters in this world and make it perfectly believable because of Magic. But why do it to a stranger when you could just as easily do it to Harry or Draco? Why write about what a terrible life Harry had at the Dursleys and then introduce a new character that had an even more terrible life? It sort of takes the focus away from Harry. If the point is to create a character that we readers need to sympathize with so that we can cheer when Harry rescues her then use Hermione or Ginny or Neville. Why create someone new when there are so many other possibilities to choose from?

The Super Mary Sue:

Scenario: Turns out Harry wasn't the only Boy Who Lived. There was another boy who was also hit by the Killing Curse and he lived too and is now more powerful than Harry and has an even cooler scar than Harry.

There are certain laws that must be adhered to when writing a story. There are certain facts that make up the realty of each fandom -- and if you step outside those facts you are no longer truly writing in that fandom. In the Potter Universe, Harry and Voldemort are inexplicably tied together. You can write an AU where Voldemort is the good guy and Harry is the bad guy -- but the two of them still balance each other. Harry can kill Voldemort and become the new Dark Lord, but the conflict between Harry and Voldemort must be held stable. In the Potter Universe we are told that Voldemort is the most powerful Dark Lord around, Dumbeldore is the only wizard he fears, and Harry is the only one who can defeat him. That triumvirate of power should not be messed with. Suddenly introducing a new character who is more powerful than Harry or Dumbledore throws the Potterverse out of kilter.

It's always fun to read a story where Dumbledore is really evil and Harry and Voldemort have to team up to fight him -- but it causes problems when a new girl suddenly shows up who can summon the mystical unicorns that can turn her into a dragon which is more powerful than a thousand phoenixes and speaks Japanese fluently. Why not just write your own story about the girl and set it in your own universe where you can create your own laws of existence? We read Harry Potter stories because we like the Potter Universe. Don't rewrite it so utterly that it is no longer recognizable.

The Crazy American Mary Sue:

No Scenario -- speaks for itself. The moment you see even a summary of a story where a 'wild and crazy' American arrives on the scene, you know you have a Mary Sue. First off, crazy-American stories are almost always written by Americans who don't realize that they're just not all that crazy. Americans are no crazier or cooler or hotter than the next nationality. There are plenty of crazy people in Britain -- you don't need to import Americans to fill the job. And in a world where the sport of choice is Quidditch, I don't think Harry and gang are going to care all that much about the differences between football and soccer. And Voldemort isn't going to hesitate or scratch his scaly head in bafflement when someone shouts an American slur at him instead of a proper British curse. If you create a character whose most defining characteristic is the fact that they are American or Mongolian or Australian, you've not only created a Mary Sue but a walking cliche as well.

Spotting a Mary Sue in a summary.

The following are fictitious summaries (though I've read hundreds just like them) where you can spot the Mary Sue a mile away. Can you spot her now?:

  • Harry is depressed after a summer of torment at the Durlseys. But things get crazy when a mysterious girl suddenly shows up at Hogwarts.
  • Harry, Ron and Hermione are trapped in a cave-in while looking for the next Horcrux. Their only hope is Ron's cousin who is dealing with problems all her own.
  • Harry and Draco have both fallen in love. . ..with the SAME Girl! What's a muggle girl to do when the Savior of the World and Prince of Darkness both want her?
  • Draco is a veela who suddenly discovers that Harry is his mate. Now all he has to do is win the heart of the Savior of the World and avoid the wild machinations of his twin sister.
  • Before the sun sets on his next birthday Snape must seduces and win the heart of Harry Potter. His only chance is to get the help of the fifth Marauder.
  • After being raped by his uncle, Harry runs away from home and stays with his best friend Riley. Together with Draco, Harry and Riley form a musical band called Tenacious D and go on tour in the muggle world.
  • A crazy American arrives at Hogwarts....

Oil Change Instructions for Men and Women

This one from my forwarded email is hilarious~!

Oil Change instructions for Women:

Pull up to Jiffy Lube when the mileage reaches 3000 miles since the last oil change.

Drink a cup of coffee.

15 minutes later, write a check and leave with a properly maintained vehicle.

Money spent: Oil Change $20.00 + Coffee $1.00 = Total $21.00.

Oil Change instructions for Men:


Go to auto parts store and write a check for $50.00 for oil, filter, kitty litter, hand cleaner, and a scented tree.

Discover that the used oil container is full. Instead of taking it back to O'Reilly to recycle, dump in hole in back yard.

Open a beer and drink it.

Jack car up. Spend 30 minutes looking for jack stands.

Find jack stands under kid's pedal car.

In frustration, open another beer and drink it.

Place drain pan under engine.

Look for 9/16 wrench in box.

Give up and use crescent wrench.

Unscrew drain plug.

Drop drain plug in pan of hot oil: get hot oil on you in process.

Clean up mess.

Have another beer while watching oil drain.

Look for oil filter wrench.

Give up; poke oil filter with screwdriver and twist off.

Beer.

Buddy shows up; finish case of beer with him. Finish oil change tomorrow.

Next day, drag pan full of old oil out from underneath car.

Throw kitty litter on oil spilled during step 18.

Beer. No, drank it all yesterday.

Walk to 7-11; buy beer.

Install new oil filter making sure to apply a thin coat of oil to gasket surface.

Dump first quart of fresh oil into engine.

Remember drain plug from step 11.

Hurry to find drain plug in drain pan.

Discover that the used oil is buried in a hole in the back yard along with drain plug.

Drink beer.

Uncover hole and sift for drain plug.

Discover that first quart of fresh oil is now on the floor.

Drink beer.

Slip with wrench tightening drain plug and bang knuckles on frame.

Bang head on floorboards in reaction to step 31.

Begin cussing fit.

Throw wrench.

Cuss for additional 10 minutes because wrench hit Miss December 1992 in the left boob.

Beer.

Clean up hands and forehead and bandage as required to stop blood flow.

Beer.

Beer.

Dump in five fresh quarts of oil.

Beer.

Lower car from jack stands.

Accidentally crush one of the jack stands.

Move car back to apply more kitty litter to fresh oil spilled during step 23.

Beer.

Test drive car.

Get pulled over: arrested for driving under the influence.

Car gets impounded.

Make bail.

Get car from impound yard.

Money spent: Parts $50.00 + DUI $2500.00 + Impound fee $75.00 + Bail $1500.00 + Beer - $25.00 = Total $4150.00 But you know the job was done right!

Star Sign and How you are in Bed

Capricorn-Sassy intelligent,sexy, but strong and go get wat he or she wants!!

Aquarius- Co Dependant .Sexy and loves bein in relationships , long relationships!!

Pisces-Caring and smart and center of attention!! Very high sex appeal, fucks good in bed!

Aries-Outgoin and down to do anything dat sounds fun, the best in bed.oo la la

Taurus-Aggressive, the best lovers, likes to give a good fight for what they want!!

Gemini-Quiet, trustable, and good in bed!!

Cancer- very emotional , like to talk ,Energetic and goofy!!

Leo- Dominant in relationships, horny, life of the party, but erotic!!

Virgo-great talkers , allways want the last word. Laid back but knows how to have fun!!

Libra- very gentle, nice , & Loud but great listeners and have own unique sexiness!!

Scorpio- can predict future. Da most erotic, very high sex appeal and great in bed!!

Sagitarius- Spontanious , horny , sexy, high sex appeal, Rare to find but good when u find

Taurus - horns, really big balls, a tendency to charge red objects, something you don't want to fuck with.

Japanese Emoticons/Smilies

A nice way to use for chatting and stuff, but I think probably the Japs would know better what it means

^_^ smiling
(^-^) smiling
(-_-) smiling a secret smile
^_- winking
^_~ winking
\ ^_^ / joyful!
\(^o^\)(/^.^)/ happy!
(^_^;) laughing to mask nervousness
(^o^) LOL - laughing out loud
<^o^> laughing loudly
(^_^) grinning from ear to ear
(*_*) frightened
(;_;) weeping
m(_)m making a humble bow of thanks or apology (kowtow or gomennasai)
m(_ _)m ditto
(_o_) kowtowing
*^_^* blushing / embarassed
(*^_^*) shy
^_^;;; embarassed / in a cold sweat
^^;;; embarassed / in a cold sweat
( o ) ( o ) surprised
@|@ looking at the terminal for too long
^L^ happy
^(^ happy (variation)
(_) depressed
-,- asleep
-.- asleep
|-| asleep / bored
(-_-)zzz asleep/bored
`\=o-o=/' wearing spectacles
@_@ wearing spectacles
(^o^) joyously singing
(^.^)/ waving hello
(;.;)/~ waving goodbye
(^_^)/~~ waving a hankerchief goodbye
(@_@) stunned
(o_o) shocked
O_O shocked
(>_<) furious
(>_<) hurt / upset
(=_=)~ sleepy
(g_g) sleepy
{{(>_<)}} cold
(*_*) in love
($_$) greedy
(x_x) dead
(u_u) sleeping
(OvO) an owl
~\~\ (^o^) /~/~ an octopus
(%-%) Mesmerized person
(*-*) Baby
(*-@) pirate
~_O_~ an angel
'^.^'/^ an evil smiley with a pitchfork
(+)__(+) a bighead
(,_') motion sick
($o$) money~
\(*_*)/ cheering
.O_O. Chibi wobble eyes
^_^() Sweatdrop
~~m('_')m~~ superman
0($_$)0 Sararyman
0(~_~)0 constipated
{(-_-)} wearing headphones
0(^_^)0 happy
~\(+.+)/~ spell-casting
(^O^) yawning
-_-" annoyed
;;>.<;; hot
(?-?) confused
^^" smiling to hide humiliation
*\(^-^)/* holding pom-poms
T.T crying
^_^/~~~ waving bye bye
^^ smiling gently
...>_<... crying
\^_^/ hugging
^)-(^ chewing
(-.-) tired
^.^ happy
(O.o) mixed up
('x') can't talk or can't say
=.= not talking
*v* blinded
(@@) " you're kidding! "
(@ @) " you're joking! "
(*^.^*) " flattery will get you everywhere "
(>_<) " Not again "
(?_?) " Why? "
O.o Uh.... okay then
><" "oh no!" (with sweatdrop)
(.. )( ..) looking around
^)^ ^(^ two people talking
\(^-^\)|~0(/^-^)/ dancing
(^.^)(>,<) Drama Japanese style
o---('o')o boxing Timmy
O=)=o(-_-)o=> Ouch!

Sex vs First Letter of Your Name

-A- You are not particularly romantic, but you are interested in action. You mean business. With you, what you see is what you get. You have no patience for flirting and can't be bothered with someonewho is trying to be coy, cute, demure, and subtly enticing. You arean up front person. When it comes to sex, it's action that counts notobscure hints. Your mate's physical attractiveness is important to you. You find the chase and challenge of the "hunt" invigorating. You are passionate and sexual as well as being much more adventurous than you appear; however, you do not go around advertising these qualities. Your physical needs are your primary concern.

-B- You give off vibes of lazy sensuality. You enjoy being romanced, wined, and dined. You are very happy to receive gifts as an statement of the affection of your lover. You want to be pampered and know how to pamper your mate. You are private in your statement of endearments and particularly when it comes to lovemaking. You will hold off until everything meets with your approval. You can control your appetite and abstain from sex if need be. You require new sensations and experiences. You are willing to experiment.

-C- You are a very social individual, and it is important to you to have a relationship. You require closeness and togetherness. You must be able to talk to your sex partner before, during, and after. You want the object of your affection to be socially acceptable and good looking. You see your lover as a friend and companion. You are very sexual and sensual, needing someone to appreciate and almost worship you. When this cannot be achieved, you have the ability to go for long periods without sexual activity. You are an expert at controlling your desires and doing without.

-D- Once you get it into your head that you want someone, you move full steam ahead in pursuit. You do not give up your quest easily. You are nurturing and caring If someone has a problem, this turns you on. You are highly sexual, passionate, loyal, and intense in your involvement, sometimes possessive and jealous. Sex to you is a pleasure to be enjoyed. You are stimulated by the eccentric and unusual, having a free and open.

-E- Your greatest need is to talk. If your date is not a good listener, you have trouble relating. A person must be intellectually stimulating or you are not interested sexually. You need a friend for a lover and a companion for a bedmate. You hate disharmony and disruption, but you do enjoy a good argument once in a while it seems to stir things up. You flirt a lot, for the challenge is more important than the sexual act for you, but once you give your heart away, you are uncompromisingly loyal. When you don't have a good lover to fall asleep with, you will fall asleep with a good book. (Sometimes, in fact, you prefer a good book.)

-F- You are idealistic and romantic, putting your lover on a pedestal. You look for the very best mate you can find. You are a flirt, yet once committed, you are very loyal. You are sensuous, sexual, and privately passionate. Publicly, you can be showy, extravagant, and gallant. You are born romantic. Dramatic love scenes are your favorite fantasy pastime. You can be a very generous lover.

-G- You are fastidious, seeking perfection within yourself and your lover. You respond to a lover who is your intellectual equal or superior, and one who can enhance your status. You are sensuous and know how to reach the peak of erotic stimulation, because you work at it meticulously. You can be extremely active sexually that is, when you find the time. Your duties and responsibilities take precedence over everything else. You may have difficulty getting emotionally close to a lover, but no trouble getting close sexually.

-H- You seek a mate who can enhance your reputation and earning ability. You will be very generous to your lover once you have attained a commitment. Your gifts are actually an investment in your partner. Before the commitment, though, you tend to be frugal in your spending and dating habits and equally cautious in your sexual involvement. You are a sensual and patient lover.

-I- You have a great need to be loved, appreciated...Even worshipped. You enjoy luxury, sensuality, and pleasures of the flesh. You look for lovers who know what they are doing. You are not interested in an amateur, unless that amateur wants a tutor. You are fussy and exacting about having your desires satisfied. You are willing to experiment and try new modes of sexual statement. You bore easily and thus require sexual adventure and change. You are more sensual than sexual, but you are sometimes downright lustful.

-J-
You can be very romantic, attached to the glamour of love. Having a partner is of paramount importance to you. You are free in your statement of love and are willing to take chances, try new sexual experiences and partners, provided it's all in good taste. Brains turn you on. You must feel that your partner is intellectually stimulating, otherwise you will find it difficult to sustain the relationship. You require loving, cuddling, wining and dining to know that you're being appreciated.

-K- You are totally f**king marvelous!

-L- You are very romantic, idealistic, and somehow you believe that to love means to suffer. You wind up serving your mate or attracting people who have unusual troubles. You see yourself as your lover's savior. You are sincere, passionate, lustful, and dreamy. You can't help falling in love. You fantasize and get turned on by movies and magazines. You do not tell others of this secret life, nor of your sexual fantasies.

-M- You are emotional and intense. When involved in a relationship, you throw your entire being into it. Nothing stops you; there are no holds barred. You are all consuming and crave someone who is equally passionate and intense. You believe in total sexual freedom. You are willing to try anything and everything. Your supply of sexual energy is inexhaustible. You also enjoy mothering your mate.

-N- You are crap in bed.

-O- You are very interested in sexual activities yet secretive and shy about your desires. You can re-channel much of your sexual energy into making money and/or seeking power. You can easily have extended periods of celibacy. You are a passionate, compassionate, sexual lover, requiring the same qualities from your mate. Sex is serious business; thus you demand intensity diversity, and are willing to try anything or anyone. Sometimes your passions turn to possessiveness, which must be kept in check.

-P-
You are very conscious of social proprieties. You wouldn't think of doing anything that might harm your image or reputation. Appearances count, therefore, you require a good-looking partner. You also require an intelligent partner. Oddly enough, you may view your partner as your enemy; a good fight stimulates those sex vibes. You are relatively free of sexual hang-ups. You are willing to experiment and try new ways of doing things. You are very social and sensual; you enjoy flirting and need a good deal of physical gratification.

-Q- You require constant activity and stimulation. You have tremendous physical energy. It is not easy for a partner to keep up with you, sexually or otherwise. You are an enthusiastic lover and tend to be attracted to people of other ethnic groups. You need romance, hearts and flowers, and lots of conversation to turn you on and keep you going.

-R- Yow are a no-nonsense, action-oriented individual. You need someone who can keep pace with you and who is your intellectual equal the smarter the better. You are turned on more quickly by a great mind than by a great body. However, physical attractiveness is very important to you. You have to be proud of your partner. You are privately very sexy, but you do not beg, you are willing to serve as teacher. Sex is important; you can be a very demanding playmate.

-S-
You are secretive, self-contained, and shy. You are very sexy, sensual and passionate, but you do not let on to this. Only in intimate privacy will this past of your nature reveal itself. When it gets down to the nitty-gritty, you are an expert. You know all the little tricks of the trade, can play any role or any game, and take your love life very seriously. You don't fool around. You have the patience to wait for the right person to come along.

-T- You are very sensitive, private, and sexually passive; you like a partner who takes the lead. Music, soft lights and romantic thoughts turn you on. You fantasize but do not tend to fall in and out of love easily. When in love, you are romantic, idealistic, mushy and extremely intense. You enjoy having your senses and your feelings stimulated, titillated, and teased. You are a great flirt. You can make your relationships fit your dreams, often times all in your own head.

-U-
You are enthusiastic and idealistic when in love. When not in love, you are in love with love, always looking for someone to adore. You see romance as a challenge. You are a roamer and need adventure, excitement, and freedom. You deal in potential relationships. You enjoy giving gifts and enjoy seeing your mate looking good. Your sex drive is strong and you desire instant gratification. You are willing to put your partner's pleasures above your own.

-V- You are individualistic, and you need freedom, space, and excitement. You wait until you know someone well before committing yourself. Knowing someone means psyching him out. You feel a need to get into his head to see what makes him tick. You are attracted to eccentric types. Often there is an age difference between you and your lover. You respond to danger, thrills and suspense. The gay scene turns you on even though you yourself may not be a participant.

-W- You are very proud, determined, and you refuse to take no for an answer when pursuing love. Your ego is at stake. You are romantic, idealistic and often in love with love itself, not seeing your partner as he or she really is. You feel deeply and throw all of yourself into your relationships. Nothing is too good for your lover. You enjoy playing love games.

-X-
You need constant stimulation because you bore quickly. You can handle more than one relationship at a time with ease. You can't shut off your mind. You talk while you make love. You can have the greatest love affairs, all by yourself, in your own head.

-Y-
You are sexual, sensual, and very independent. If you can't have it your way, you will forgo the whole thing. You want to control your relationships, which doesn't always work out too well. You respond to physical stimulation, enjoy necking and spending hours just touching, feeling and exploring. However, if you can spend your time making money, you will give up the pleasures of the flesh for the moment. You need to prove to yourself and your partner what a great lover you are. You want feedback on your performance. You are an open, stimulating, romantic bedmate.

-Z- For you, it is business before pleasure. If you are in any way bothered by career, business, or money concerns, you find it very hard to relax and get into the mood. You can be romantically idealistic to a fault and are capable of much sensuality. But you never lose control of your emotions. You are very careful and cautious before you give your heart away and your body, for that matter. Once you make the commitment, though, you stick like glue

Words Women Use

This is interesting as well, and more or less true in a sense:

FINE

This is the word women use to end an argument when they feel they are right and you need to shut up. Never use "fine" to describe how a woman looks - this will cause you to have one of those arguments.

FIVE MINUTES

This is half an hour. It is equivalent to the five minutes that your football game is going to last before you take out the trash, so it's an even trade.

NOTHING

This means "something," and you should be on your toes. "Nothing" is usually used to describe the feeling a woman has of wanting to turn you inside out, upside down, and backwards. "Nothing" usually signifies an argument that will last "Five Minutes" and end with "Fine".

GO AHEAD (With Raised Eyebrows!)

This is a dare. One that will result in a woman getting upset over "Nothing" and will end with the word "Fine" .

GO AHEAD (Normal Eyebrows)

This means "I give up" or "do what you want because I don't care" You will get a "Raised Eyebrow Go Ahead" in just a few minutes, followed by "Nothing" and "Fine" and she will talk to you in about "Five Minutes" when she cools off.

LOUD SIGH

This is not actually a word, but is a non-verbal statement often misunderstood by men. A "Loud Sigh" means she thinks you are an idiot at that moment, and wonders why she is wasting her time standing here and arguing with you over "Nothing" .

SOFT SIGH

Again, not a word, but a non-verbal statement. "Soft Sighs" mean that she is content. Your best bet is to not move or breathe, and she will stay content.

THAT'S OKAY

This is one of the most dangerous statements that a woman can make to a man. "That's Okay" means that she wants to think long and hard before paying you back for whatever it is that you have done. "That's Okay" is often used with the word "Fine" and in conjunction with a "Raised Eyebrow."

GO AHEAD!

At some point in the near future, you are going to be in some mighty big trouble.

PLEASE DO

This is not a statement, it is an offer. A woman is giving you the chance to come up with whatever excuse or reason you have for doing whatever it is that you have done. You have a fair chance with the truth, so be careful and you shouldn't get a "That's Okay"

THANKS

A woman is thanking you. Do not faint. Just say you're welcome.

THANKS A LOT

This is much different from "Thanks." A woman will say, "Thanks A Lot" when she is really ticked off at you. It signifies that you have offended her in some callous way, and will be followed by the "Loud Sigh." Be careful not to ask what is wrong after the "Loud Sigh," as she will only tell you "Nothing".

30 Things Guys Should Know About Girls

I got this from a forwarded mail, but it's more or less true...sorta

30 THINGS GUYS SHOULD KNOW ABOUT GIRLS:
This was written by a guy who has had years of experience.

1. Whatever you do, don't just show up at their house...they run around in their underwear just like we do.

2. DON'T CHEAT ON THEM. It may seem foolproof, but girls tell each other everything about everything. Trust me, they WILL find out and you will be mud.

3. Beware of every single male relative and all guy friends. Any of them would kick your ass at the drop of a hat, and a lot of them wouldn't even wait for the damn hat.

4. Never miss an opportunity to tell them they're beautiful.

5. Don't refuse to kiss in front of your friends. If they laugh at you, it's because they're jealous.

6. If they slap you hard, you deserved it.

7. Don't be afraid to touch them if you want to. If they're going out with you in the first place, it's because they like being in your arms.

8. If you don't sleep with them, do not tell your friends that you did.


9. You can be dirty minded in private, really...most of them are not offended by it...

10. Not all of them eat like birds; a lot of them can eat like whales.

11. Most of them don't mind paying half of everything, but they do discuss these things with their friends. Realize that if you make your girlfriend pay half all the time, everyone will know about it and your friends will know you're a pussy.

11.5 Do you honestly need all your money that much? Be a man! Pay all the time!

12. Every girl should eventually get three things from her boyfriend- a stuffed animal, one of his sweatshirts, and a really pretty ring. Even if it's not a serious relationship.

13. Make sure she gets home safely as often as you can. If you're dropping her off, walk her to the door. If you aren't dropping her off, call to be sure she's home safely.

14. If a guy is bothering her, it is your right to beat the shit out of him.

15. If you're talking to a female friend of yours, pull your girlfriend closer.

16. Never, ever slap her, even if it's just in a joking way. Even if she swats you first, and says, "Oh, you're so dumb" or something, never make any gestures back.

17. Go to a chick flick once in a while. She doesn't care whether you enjoy it or not, it just matters that you went.

18. You're dead meat if you can't get along with their pets, parents, and best friends. Be prince charming to their friends, Mr. Polite to their parents, and make sure to be nice to their animals.

19. Don't flirt with their mom...that's just freaky.

20. Don't be freaked out by PMS. It's not gross, and it really does make them feel like shit, so be understanding.

21. If you don't like the way they drive, you do it.

22. If you're officially dating, and you're introducing her to your friends, you'd better damn well introduce her as your girlfriend.

23. Don't stress where you go for every date. They really only want to be with you.

24. If they complain that something hurts, rub it for them without being asked.

25. Girls are fragile. Even if you're play fighting/wrestling, be very gentle.

26. Memorize their goddamn birthdays. You forget her birthday and you're basically screwed for life.

27. Don't marinade the cologne, but smell good.

28. Don't give her something stupid for her birthday or Christmas or Valentine's Day. It doesn't have to be expensive, but it has to be meaningful. Jewelry is always nice.

29. If you think the relationship isn't going to last, don't wait to find out. It will only hurt you more if you draw it out.

30. After you've been dating for a while, realize that they really have started to trust you. When you have a girlfriend who truly trusts you, you have a lot more responsibility, privilege and control than you would think. Be careful with it, most guys would kill for that kind of power, and it can be lost in a nanosecond.

10 Things Men Don't Understand about Women

My chat friend from Ireland showed me a link about this list, which I think it's totally bullshit and stereotypical of women, but still a fun read anyways XD

Some say that men are from Mars and women are from Venus and in terms of us being different, they weren't far from the truth.

Yes, we do have to spend two hours getting ready, and looking at every single pair of shoes in the shopping centre before making a decision.

Here are 10 things that men probably won't ever understand about us girls.

1. Why we have to make the bed
We know we're only going to mess it up again when we get back in it later on, but we still like to leave it neat and tidy, alright lads?

2. Why we take so long getting ready
We always like to feel our best when heading out of the house, no matter how much men protest about how long it takes for us to get ready. Yes, we do need to apply lipstick even if we're only going to the supermarket - because we're worth it.

3. Why we have to browse
We know we often go shopping, see a pair of shoes we love but insist on trawling the whole street just in case there's a pair we like even more before buying the pair we looked at originally. Well, we couldn't go home wondering 'what if?', could we?

4. Why kisses on text messages are important
Men take note: women do actually count how many kisses you put on the end of your text messages, and yes, it does mean something to us, like exactly how much you like us.

5. Why chocolate makes things feel better instantly
Nothing takes the pain of a stressful day or broken heart away like the taste of chocolate. Fact.

6. Why we don't laugh at fart jokes
This is an age old mystery - and one that isn't likely to be solved anytime in the near future. Fart jokes simply aren't funny unless you're a bloke.

7. Why one black skirt/handbag/pair of heels is never enough
Just because we already have one of everything, it doesn't mean that we don't need at least another three of each, just in case.

8. Why our hormones take over once a month
Now we don't expect men to understand this one because they've never been through it themselves, but it's something we don't have control over, so it's best to stay out of our way when it's happening.

9. Why we have to own so many pairs of shoes
The size of our shoe collections has baffled men for decades, but we just have to have a pair that matches everything we own - it's a basic human right after all.

10. Why we want to be independent (but still want doors held open for us)
Men have been holding doors open for us since the dawn of, well, doors and we still love it when they do. Only thing is, we like it when it suits us - because we're independent women these days fellas.
Thursday, November 26, 2009 | By: BlackGargie

The Science of Gaydar

An article I find rather interesting about how to spot between a straight and a gay:

The Science of Gaydar

Reprinted from New York Magazine, June 25,2007 by David France

If sexual orientation is biological, are the traits that make people seem gay innate, too? The new research on everything from voice pitch to hair whorl.

As a presence in the world—a body hanging from a subway strap or pressed into an elevator, a figure crossing the street—I am neither markedly masculine nor notably effeminate. Nor am I typically perceived as androgynous, not in my uniform of Diesels and boots, not even when I was younger and favored dangling earrings and bright Jack Purcells. But most people immediately read me (correctly) as gay. It takes only a glance to make my truth obvious. I know this from strangers who find gay people offensive enough to elicit a remark—catcalls from cab windows, to use a recent example—as well as from countless casual social engagements in which people easily assume my orientation, no sensitive gaydar necessary. I’m not so much out-of-the-closet as “self-evident,” to use Quentin Crisp’s phrase, although being of a younger generation, I can’t subscribe to his belief that it is a kind of disfigurement requiring lavender hair rinse.

I once placed a personal ad in which I described myself as “gay-acting/gay-appearing,” partly as a jab at my peers who prefer to be thought of as “str8” but mostly because it’s just who I am. Maybe a better way to phrase it would have been “third-sexer,” the category advanced by the gay German sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld 100 years ago. The label fell into disrepute, but lately a number of well-known researchers in the field of sexual orientation have been reviving it based on an extensive new body of research showing that most of us, whether top or bottom, butch or femme, or somewhere in between, share a kind of physical otherness that locates us in our own quadrant of the gender matrix, more like one another than not. Whatever that otherness is seems to come from somewhere deep within us. It mostly defies our efforts to disguise it. That’s what we mean by gaydar—not the skill of the viewer so much as the telltale signs most gay people project, the set of traits that make us unmistakably one.

The late psychologist and sexologist John Money famously called these the details of our “gendermaps,” which he believed are drawn primarily by life’s experience and social conditioning. Money planted some of the earliest flags in the nature-versus-nurture war by claiming that dysfunctional parents, not inborn biology, is what produced “sissy boys,” tomboys, and other gender variants. But today, the pendulum has swung just about as far in the other direction as possible. A small constellation of researchers is specifically analyzing the traits and characteristics that, though more pronounced in some than in others, not only make us gay but also make us appear gay.

At first read, their findings seem like a string of unlinked, esoteric observations. Statistically, for instance, gay men and lesbians have about a 50 percent greater chance of being left-handed or ambidextrous than straight men or women. The relative lengths of our fingers offer another hint: The index fingers of most straight men are shorter than their ring fingers, while for most women they are closer in length, or even reversed in ratio. But some researchers have noted that gay men are likely to have finger-length ratios more in line with those of straight women, and a study of self-described “butch” lesbians showed significantly masculinized ratios. The same goes for the way we hear, the way we process spatial reasoning, and even the ring of our voices. One study, involving tape-recordings of gay and straight men, found that 75 percent of gay men sounded gay to a general audience. It’s unclear what the listeners responded to, whether there is a recognized gay “accent” or vocal quality. And there is no hint as to whether this idiosyncrasy is owed to biology or cultural influences—only that it’s unmistakable. What is there in Rufus Wainwright’s “uninhibited, yearning, ugly-duckling voice,” as the Los Angeles Times wrote a few weeks ago, that we recognize as uniquely gay? Does biology account for Rosie O’Donnell’s crisp trumpet and Charles Nelson Reilly’s gnyuck-gnyuck-gnyuck?

“These are all part and parcel of the idea that being gay is different—that we are different animals to some extent,” says Simon LeVay, the British-born neuroscientist who has dedicated himself to studying these issues. “Hirschfeld was right. I support the idea that we’re a third sex—or a third sex and a fourth sex, gay men and lesbians. Today, there’s scientific documentation behind this.”

Richard Lippa, a psychologist from California State University at Fullerton, is one of the leading cataloguers of the many ways in which gay people are different. I caught up with him a few weeks ago at a booth at the Long Beach Pride Festival in Southern California, where he was researching another hypothesis—that the hair-whorl patterns on gay heads are more likely to go counterclockwise. If true, it will be one more clue to our biological uniqueness.

As he recruited experiment subjects, Lippa scanned the passing scalps, some shaved clean, some piled in colorful tresses. “It’s like a kind of art. You look at the back of people’s heads, and it’s literally like a vector field,” he says. “We assume that whatever causes people to be right-handed or left-handed is also causing hair whorl. The theory we’re testing is that there’s a common gene responsible for both.” And that gene might be a marker for sexual orientation. So, as part of his study, he has swabbed the inside cheek of his subjects. It will be months before that DNA testing is complete.

I was surprised at how many people quickly agreed to lend five minutes of their pride celebration to science. “If I could tell my mother it’s a gene, she would be so happy,” said one, Scott Quesada, 42, who sat in a chair for Lippa’s inspection.

“Classic counterclockwise whorl,” the researcher pronounced, snapping a photo.

Quesada, who is right-handed and seemed to have a typically masculinized finger-length ratio, was impressed. “I didn’t know I had a whorl at all,” he said.

By the end of the two-day festival, Lippa had gathered survey data from more than 50 short-haired men and photographed their pates (women were excluded because their hairstyles, even at the pride festival, were too long for simple determination; crewcuts are the ideal Rorschach, he explains). About 23 percent had counterclockwise hair whorls. In the general population, that figure is 8 percent.

A string of other studies, most of them conducted quietly and with small budgets, has offered up a number of other biological indicators. According to this research, for instance, gay men, like straight women, have an increased density of fingerprint ridges on the thumb and the pinkie of the left hand; and overall their arms, legs, and hands are smaller relative to stature (among whites but not blacks). There are technical differences in the way most men and most women hear, except among lesbians, whose ears function more like men’s. And there are gender-based cognitive differences in which gay men appear more like women. One involves mentally rotating a 3-D object, something males tend to do better than females—except gay men score more like straight women and lesbians function more like straight men. In navigational tasks and verbal-fluency tests, gay men and lesbians tend to have sex-atypical scores.

From these findings, it might be tempting to conclude that lesbians are universally masculinized and gay men are somehow feminized—the classic “inversion model” of homosexuality advanced by Freud. But the picture is more complicated than that. There is also evidence—some more silly-sounding than serious—that homosexuals may be simultaneously more feminine and more masculine, respectively. The stereotypes—that lesbians tend to commit to relationships early and have little interest in casual sex; that gay men have more sexual partners than their counterparts—turn out to be true. One study that supports the hyper-masculinity theory of male homosexuality involves penis size. An Ontario-based psychological researcher named Anthony Bogaert re-sorted Kinsey Institute data—in which 5,000 men answered detailed questions about their sex lives, practices, fantasies, and, it turns out, measurements of their erect organs—along sexual-orientation lines. Gay men’s penises were thicker (4.95 inches versus 4.80) and longer (6.32 inches versus 5.99). The measurements, it should be noted, were self-reported and perhaps involve reporting bias, but no one has done a study investigating whether gay men are more prone to exaggerating their assets, so, well, draw your own conclusions.

But if true, these findings negate the inversion model, Bogaert says. Instead of picturing gender and orientation along a line, with straight men and women on either end and gay people in the middle, he suggests, a matrix might be a more accurate way to map the possibilities.

Some of this work has been derided as modern-day phrenology, and obviously possessing one trait or another—a counterclockwise hair whorl here, an elongated ring finger there—doesn’t necessarily make a person gay or straight. But researchers point out that these are statistical averages from the community as a whole. And the cumulative findings support the belief now widely held in the scientific community that sexual orientation—perhaps along with the characteristics we typically associate with gayness—is biological. “We’re reaching a consensus on a broad question,” says J. Michael Bailey, a psychologist at Northwestern University. Is sexual orientation “something we’re born with or something we largely acquire through social experience? The answer is clear. It’s something we’re born with.”

Because many of these newly identified “gay” traits and characteristics are known to be influenced in utero, researchers think they may be narrowing in on when gayness is set—and identifying its possible triggers. They believe that homosexuality may be the result of some interaction between a pregnant mother and her fetus. Several hypothetical mechanisms have been identified, most pointing to an alteration in the flow of male hormones in the formation of boys and female hormones in the gestation of girls. What causes this? Nobody has any direct evidence one way or another, but a list of suspects includes germs, genes, maternal stress, and even allergy—maybe the mother mounts some immunological response to the fetal hormones.

Immunological response is the ascendant theory, in fact. We know from a string of surveys that in any family, the second-born son is 33 percent more likely than the first to be gay, and the third is 33 percent more likely than the second, and so on, as though there is some sort of “maternal memory,” similar to the way antibodies are memories of an infection. Perhaps she mounts a more effective immunological response to fetal hormones with each new male fetus. To determine whether the fraternal birth order might also suggest that baby brothers are treated differently in a way that impacts their sexual expression, researchers have studied boys who weren’t raised in their biological families, or who may have been firstborn but grew up as the youngest in Brady Bunch–type homes. In every permutation, the results were the same: What mattered was only how many boys had occupied your mother’s uterus before you.

Some of this research may prove to be significant; some will ultimately get chalked up to coincidence. But the thrust of these developing findings puts activists in a bind and brings gay rights to a major crossroads, perhaps its most significant since the American Psychiatric Association voted to declassify homosexuality as a disease in 1973. If sexual orientation is biological, and we are learning to identify how it happens inside the uterus, doesn’t it suggest a future in which gay people can be prevented? This spring, R. Albert Mohler Jr., the president of a Southern Baptist theological seminary in Kentucky and one of the country’s leading Evangelical voices, advocated just that. “We want to understand why some persons will struggle with that particular sin,” he explained. “If there is a way we can help with the struggle, we should certainly be open to it, the same way we would help alcoholics deal with their temptation.”

That in part is why gay people have not hungered for this breakthrough. Late last year, Martina Navratilova joined activists from PETA to speak out against an experiment that sought to intentionally turn sheep gay (it failed, but another experiment successfully turned ferrets into homosexuals, and the sexual orientations of fruit flies have been switched in laboratories). Some 20,000 angry e-mails clogged the researchers’ inboxes, comparing the work to Nazi eugenics and arguing that it held no promise of any kind to gay people. “There are positives, but many negatives” to this kind of research, says Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “I will bet my life that if a quote-unquote cure was found, that the religious right would have no problem with genetic or other kind of prenatal manipulations. People who don’t think that’s a clear and present danger are simply not living in reality.”

A study found that 75 percent of gay men sounded gay to a general audience.
Were they responding to a recognized gay “accent”?

At the dawn of gay politics a half-century ago, the government treated gay people as a menace to national security, and much of the public, kept from any ordinary depictions of gay life, lived in terror of encountering one of us. It was routine, and reliably successful, for defendants in murder cases to prevail by alleging they were fending off a gay assault. (If confronted by the pathology of homosexuality, jurors believed, force was not only appropriate but utterly forgivable.) Back then, many psychiatrists treated homosexuality with shock therapy, detention, or a mind-twisting intervention called “aversion therapy”—a practice that was still in vogue in the late seventies, when a lumpy-faced psychiatrist put me through a regimen of staring at Playboy centerfolds.

The groundwork for change began when Evelyn Hooker, a UCLA psychologist, was approached by a gay former student in the fifties. He had noticed that all research on homosexuals looked at men and women who were imprisoned or institutionalized, thereby advancing the belief that homosexuals were abnormal. He proposed that she study men like him as a counterpoint. Over the next two decades, she did just that, proving that none of the known psychological screens could detect a healthy gay person—that there was no clinical pathology to sexual orientation. Of necessity, research at the time was focused on demonstrating how unremarkable gay men and lesbians are: indistinguishable on all personality inventories, equally good at all jobs, benign as parents, unthreatening as neighbors, and so on. On the strength of Hooker’s findings, and a Gandhian effort by activists, the APA changed its view on homosexuals 34 years ago.

Thereafter, the field of sexual-orientation research fell dormant until 1991, when Simon LeVay conducted the very first study of homosexual biological uniqueness. He had been a researcher at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, when his lover fell ill with AIDS. He took a year off to care for him, but his partner ultimately died. Returning to work, LeVay decided he wanted to concentrate on gay themes. “Just like a lot of gay people who’d been directly affected by the epidemic, I felt a desire to do something more relevant to my identity as a gay man,” says LeVay. “Some people have said I was out to try and prove that it wasn’t my fault that I was gay. I reject that. In my case, since neuroscience was my work, that just seemed like the way to go.”

Ironically, AIDS had also given LeVay opportunity. Before the epidemic, cadavers available for dissecting came with scant personal background besides age and cause of death. But because AIDS was still largely a gay disease, it was possible for the first time to do detailed neuroanatomical studies on the bodies of known gay men. (Being lucky enough to have no proprietary cause of death, lesbians were excluded from the study.)

LeVay decided to make the first detailed comparison of the brain’s hypothalamus, a small region at the base of the brain responsible for regulating everything from blood pressure and body temperature to hunger and wake-sleep cycles. And because it’s awash in more hormones than any other part of the brain, it also helps control emotions and sex drive and enjoys a reputation among neurologists, as LeVay noted in his book The Sexual Brain, for being “haunted by animal spirits and the ghosts of primal urges.”

LeVay suspected the secret to sexual orientation might lurk there as well. It was already known that in (presumably straight) men, a cell cluster in the hypothalamus called INAH3 is more than twice the size of the cluster in (presumably straight) women, a distinction probably created during fetal development when male hormones begin acting on boy fetuses and the two genders embark on different biological courses. LeVay designed a study to see if there were any size differences inside gay brains. His results were startling and unexpected. In gay men, INAH3 is similar in size to straight women’s.

This finding challenged a lot of what scientists believed. “The brain was considered pretty hardwired,” says Roger Gorski, a neurobiologist at UCLA who researches sexual differentiation. “It was male or female, period. Then Simon’s study shows that there could be intermediates. That wasn’t just a watershed—it pushed the water over the waterfall.”

At the time, LeVay presented his findings with caution, acknowledging that HIV or AIDS medications might have been responsible for altering brain structure. But more recently, an important study of sheep brains has replicated his findings. Sheep are among 500 animal species where homosexuality has been documented. They are also among the few who practice exclusive homosexuality, like many humans. In any population of sheep, about 8 percent of males show exclusive homosexual behavior. Little is known about the romantic life of Sapphic sheep because ewes tend to express their sexual interests by standing entirely still, yielding no clues about their partner preferences.

Slicing open the brains of ten ewes, eight female-oriented rams, and nine males who preferred other rams, researchers in the Oregon Health and Science University School of Medicine found nearly the same variations in hypothalamus that LeVay first noticed. Male sheep who were attracted to females had a significantly larger hypothalamus dimension than females or male-oriented males.

A second study in humans also found size differences, though less dramatic, in the hypothalamus cluster identified by LeVay. “There’s now more reason to think my results are right, that the gay brain has this distinction,” he says.

If LeVay’s research suggested that biology—not environment, vice, or sinfulness—was likely responsible for male homosexuality, the geneticist Dean Hamer, an author and molecular biologist at the National Institutes of Health, hoped to pinpoint the exact biological mechanism responsible. He scanned gene groups in pairs of gay siblings looking for sites where the relatives had inherited the same DNA more frequently than would be expected on the basis of chance. In 1993, he located a region in the human genome, called Xq28, that appeared to be associated with gayness, a finding that has generated some controversy among researchers who have not fully confirmed the results.

A large-scale study within the next year is expected to determine more conclusively if a gene (or genes) is linked to sexual orientation. Alan R. Sanders, a psychiatrist from Northwestern University, is enrolling 1,000 pairs of gay brothers in one of the largest sexual-orientation studies ever undertaken. With the experiment, funded by an NIH grant of over $1 million, Sanders will attempt to map genes that influence sexual orientation.

Why has it taken fourteen years to carry out such an investigation? Hamer says there is very little research money, and almost no glory, to be gained in the hunt for gayness. “At about the same time as Xq28 came out, we found another gene involved in anxiety—the target gene for Prozac, and since that time, there have been now almost 800 peer-reviewed publications on that gene. Whereas for the gay gene, every experiment has been done by three or four students, most of them my students.”

One of the riddles still vexing geneticists is why only 50 percent of gay identical twins share a sexual orientation with their sibling, despite being genetically identical. “We know from all sorts of research that it’s not your upbringing, not relationship with parents or siblings, not early-childhood sexual experiences and whether you go to a Catholic school or not,” says Sven Bocklandt, a geneticist at UCLA. “What I believe is that it is the ‘epigenetics environment,’ meaning the environment on top of our DNA—meaning the way that the gene is regulated. If you have identical twins, the genes are identical, but they are used differently. Every man and every woman has all the genes to make a vagina and womb and penis and testicles. In the same way, arguably, every man and woman has the genetic code for the brain networks that make you attracted to men and to women. You activate one or the other—and if you activate the wrong one, you’re gay.”

I can’t ignore Bocklandt’s use of the word wrong in relation to gay genetic codes. I don’t believe Bocklandt has any agenda in his work beyond scientific exploration, nor do I have any reason to believe he is anti-gay. Rather, Bocklandt is driven, as he likes to say, by a voracious curiosity about all sorts of sexual orientations. “This is not about a gay gene,” he says. “This is about sexual attraction, and about love. And about why crocodiles mate and why pigeons mate. It’s amazing to me that we don’t understand how that works. It’s so fundamental. Life on Earth would be very different if heterosexuality didn’t exist. That’s what we’re trying to figure out.”

But every discovery in this field ignites a new discussion of morality. Politically, there is something very powerful about the notion that sexual orientation is a matter of biology, not choice. In poll after poll, of the one third of Americans who believe homosexuality is socially influenced, in other words “a choice,” about 70 percent think being gay is “not acceptable.” But for those who believe it is biologically mandated, the statistic reverses, and four out of five Americans find gayness “acceptable.”

As Bocklandt’s slip of the tongue illustrates, subtle judgments abound in the field. It is true that homosexuality does not make a whole lot of sense biologically. It lacks an obvious purpose. That’s the reason evolution-theory scholars call it “maladaptive” and radio shock jock Laura Schlessinger labeled it a “biological error.” But Stanford biology professor Joan Roughgarden points out in her book Evolution’s Rainbow that most homosexual activity in the animal kingdom serves a fundamentally social purpose. Japanese macaques, for instance, live in female-only societies, arranged in rigid hierarchies. Power and cohesion are established through lesbian couplings, which can last up to four days and seem to prevent violence and aggression. Among many species, in fact, gayness seems to facilitate complex societies. One species of bird has males, females, and “marriage brokers” of a third gender, there to keep the species perpetuating. As adolescents, male bottlenose dolphins perform a kind of oral sex on one another—or in threesomes or foursomes—in rituals that create lifelong friendships and defense partnerships against sharks and other predators.

If we identify how sexual orientation is set in utero, doesn’t that suggest a future in which gay people can be prevented?

But for most in the animal kingdom, same-sex pairing is either fleeting or situational. Even Silo and Roy, for six years the poster-penguins for same-sex love in the Central Park Zoo—they famously raised a daughter together—were not destined to last forever. Silo waddled off with a female named Scrappy in 2005, says zoo director Dan Wharton, adding that we shouldn’t worry about Roy’s hurt feelings. “Penguins are matter-of-fact about these things.”

That still leaves a million questions about those gay rams and humans like me, who fall on the far edge of Alfred Kinsey’s sexual-orientation scale, exclusively gay. In a universe in which we look for purpose in order to appoint value, what is the purpose of my gayness?

Dean Hamer sees one possible answer in the fraternal-birth-order studies. “In Polynesian cultures, where you’re talking about very big families, it was typical to have the last-born son be mahu, or gay,” he says. Explorers described young boys who looked after the family and sometimes dressed as girls. “They suspected that their families had made them that way. But you just can’t take a guy and make him clean up and have him become gay. He’s got to have some gayness inside. Maybe that’s the biological purpose to the mahu: taking care of Mom.”

He says this half in jest, I think, but some other evidence bolsters his argument, including the appearance of transgender younger sons among Native Americans (the so-called two-spirits) and in premodern corners of India, Samoa, and Indonesia. A survey published this year suggested that transgender fa’afafines in Samoa are more “avuncular” than heterosexuals—that is, more likely to care for kin. Another study says that female relatives of gay men may have more children; perhaps the very thing that makes their brothers and sons gay makes them more fertile, an ideal situation with extra babysitters on hand. You can slice this stuff any way you want.

Fewer studies have focused specifically on lesbians, perhaps because AIDS didn’t provide the same urgent impetus for studying female sexuality. But the research that has been conducted has yielded some interesting, though decidedly cloudy, results. According to some studies, lesbians are more likely to have homosexual relatives than nonlesbians. They also have notably longer bone growth in their arms, legs, and hands, hinting that they had greater androgen exposure during development, according to James Martin, a physiologist with Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, California. Another indicator comes in a 2003 study in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience that measured something called “prepulse inhibition,” which is the part of our startle mechanism that’s believed to defy practice or training—something hardwired, in other words. Men tend to blink less than women in such experiments; gay and heterosexual men had similar responses, but lesbians, it turns out, were more like men than not.

In many other studies, though, lesbians have appeared less unique than gay men, leading some people to wonder if their sexual orientation is innate. Michael Bailey—who, as a heterosexual researcher, is a minority in this field—even doubts the existence of female sexual orientation, if by orientation we mean a fundamental drive that defies our conscious choices. He bases this provocative gambit on a sexual-arousal study he and his students conducted. When shown pornographic videos, men have an undeniable response either to gay or straight images but not both, according to sensitive gauges attached to their genitals—it’s that binary. Female sexual response is more democratic, opaque, and unpredictable: Arousal itself is harder to track, and there is evidence that it defies easy categorization. “I don’t yet understand female partner choices very well, and neither does anyone else,” Bailey wrote me in an e-mail. “What I do think it’s time to do is admit that female sexuality looks in some ways very different from male sexuality, and that there is no clear analog in women of men’s directed sexual-arousal pattern, which I think is their sexual orientation. I am not sure that women don’t have a sexual orientation, but it is certainly unclear that they do.”

He contends that what they have instead is sexual preference—they might prefer sex with women, but something in their brains can still sizzle at the thought of men. Many feminist scholars agree with this assessment, and consider sexuality more of a fluid than an either-or proposition, but some don’t. “I think women do have orientations, but they don’t circumscribe the range of desires that women can experience to the same degree as men,” says Lisa Diamond, a psychology professor at the University of Utah, who is writing a book on the subject. “For women, there’s more wiggle room. You can think of orientation as defining a range of possible responses, and for women, it’s much broader.”

Bailey stops short of saying that lesbianism is a myth (although he has notoriously declared that true male bisexuality doesn’t exist and dismissed many transgender people as peculiar sexual fetishists, drawing lasting enmity from gay and trans groups). But it may be less hard-wired. And it appears to have separate triggers and correlates that haven’t been identified yet. In studies of twins, there is a lower correlation of sexual orientation between female siblings than male siblings, for instance. “We’re at a place,” agrees Diamond, “where everyone agrees that whatever is going on is quite distinct between the sexes.”

I suppose the main upside to this kind of work, besides any impact it might have on securing gay rights, is the comfort of self-knowledge. The secrets lurking in the hypothalamus (and the ring finger and the hair whorl) aren’t just about who we desire but about a more fundamental organization of our personalities, individually and collectively. Still, some have dismissed all this field-guide work as wrongheaded. Gaydar can no more be proved than a sixth sense, they say. What’s being classified as fundamentally gay is nothing more than cultural signals that vary so much from one part of the world to another that they’re worthless as clues to anything. It is surely true that gaydar has its blind spots. When I traveled through Nigeria a few years ago, I was unable after nearly a month to say with any conviction that I had encountered any gay people along my way. No knowing eye contact, no species recognition. (Then again, it’s not as if I was able to measure index-to-ring finger ratios.)

Where were they all? In Lagos, the morning newspaper offered an answer. According to a tiny news squib, a court had just convicted a young man of sodomy and sentenced him to death by stoning. Two other death sentences were handed down to gay people in the few days before I boarded my airplane. I paid a visit to one of the top human-rights agencies in the country and asked why they weren’t protesting these cases. The director looked at me dumbstruck. “Because sodomy,” he said as if speaking to a child, “is illegal.” To survive, they were hiding, even from me—they had edited down their gendermaps to the barest minimum and disappeared.

Still, Dr. Lippa, the hair-whorl researcher, is publishing a paper in the Archives of Sexual Behavior later this year that seems to prove the existence of gay-typical behavior across the globe. Lippa is looking at a 2005 BBC Internet survey, part of a BBC documentary project called Secrets of the Sexes, which included more than 200,000 respondents in 53 countries answering questions about everything from their occupational interests to their sexual histories and personalities. Lippa, a tall and slender man who came out to his parents in his thirties, analyzed the data first along gender lines, then compared straight people to gay people. What he found, he says, is a cross-cultural confirmation of what amount to stereotypes.

“It probably comes as no shock to you that on average men say they’re interested in being mechanics, or electrical engineers, or construction workers, whereas on average women are more interested in, say, being an interior decorator or a social worker or an artist,” he tells me. “Similarly, the differences between gay men and straight men are pretty large. On average, gay men are interested more in what you would consider female-typical occupations and hobbies than straight men. Same with women. It’s not universal. Some gay men like football games and like working on cars and are electrical engineers. But a large majority answer this way.”

It could be that his study says more about the limited number of vocations where gay men feel comfortable expressing themselves, and we might be equally drawn to construction sites if we thought we might be accepted there. It could be that the study says as much about the globalization of culture as the biological nature of gayness.

Even Lippa hesitates to say that gay people are essentially different from straight. “Essentialism,” he explains, “is the enemy of a lot of academics,” because it shuts down inquiry into all the possible influences. Perhaps there are a dozen possible routes to homosexuality, any combination of which might produce a number of the traits being catalogued now. It might be that there is no single thing called homosexuality—that there are instead dozens of homosexualities, scores of potential outcomes in terms of personality, and endless potentials for describing them. “For example, do gay men who have older brothers show more or less feminine? Do gay men with counterclockwise hair have more masculine traits? One cause might create a more feminine homosexuality than another.”

Of course, biology doesn’t determine everything. And some critics of sexual-orientation researchers blame them for minimizing the role of experience in determining our affectional course in life. The feminist biologist Anne Fausto-Sterling has waged a constant battle against their research, which she calls “a big house of cards” that ignores the power of environment in creating personality. Nurture, she argues, can and should be studied as a link to sexual orientation. The baby penguin raised by her two dads is a potential case study—though genetically unrelated to either parent, in the last few mating seasons she has mated with another female.

The rush to declare a biological mandate is motivated by a political agenda, says Fausto-Sterling, the author of Sexing the Body, who is married to a woman after a marriage to a man. “For me and for any feminist, I think it’s a pretty fragile way to argue for human rights. I want to see the claims for gay rights made on moral, ethical, legal, and constitutional bases that don’t rely on a particular scientific view of sexual development.”

Especially if that view invites the opponents of gay people to consider dramatic interventions meant to stop the development of homosexual orientation in a fetus. What if prenatal tests were able to show a predisposition to gayness? How long would it be before some pharmaceutical company develops a patch to regulate hormone flow and direct the baby’s orientation? Michael Bailey, for one, isn’t troubled by the moral implications any more than he would oppose fetal screens for potential birth defects, though he quickly adds his personal belief that homosexuality is “a good” on par with heterosexuality. “There’s no reason to ban, or become hysterical about, selecting for heterosexuality,” he says. “That’s precisely what parenting is about: shaping the children to have traits the parents value.”

It’s bizarre to think some value systems might lump gayness in with—say—sickle-cell anemia or Down syndrome. As Matt Foreman from the Task Force put it, “It’s not playing with the number of toes you have; it’s really manipulating your very essence. So many people see gay people only in terms of sexual behavior, as opposed to what sexual orientation is really about, which is how you fit into the world. I don’t want to get mushy, but it’s about your soul.”

The 10 New Commandments

I find these quotes that I got from a forwarded mail rather interesting. Thought I'd share it with everyone:

Ten New Commandments

TO: EVERYONE

FROM: GOD

Effective immediately, please be aware that there are changes you need to make in your life. These changes need to be completed in order that I may fulfill my promises to you to grant you peace, joy and happiness in this life. I apologize for any inconvenience, but after all that I am doing, this seems very little to ask of you. I know, I already gave you the 10 Commandments. Keep them. But follow these modern TEN COMMANDMENTS, also.

1.) QUIT WORRYING
Life has dealt you a blow and all you do is sit and worry. Have you forgotten that I am here to take all your burdens and carry them for you? Or do you just enjoy fretting over every little thing that comes your way? Get over it.

2.) PUT IT ON THE LIST
Something needs to be done or taken care of. Put it on the list. No, not YOUR list. Put it on M Y to-do-list. Let ME be the one to take care of the problem. I can't help you until you turn it over to me. And although my to-do-list is long, I am after all, God. I can take care of anything you put into my hands. In fact, if the truth were ever really known, I take care of a lot of things for you that you never even realize.

3.) TRUST ME
Once you've given your burdens to me, quit trying to take them back. Trust in me. Have the faith that I will take care of all your needs, your problems and your trials? Problems with the kids? Put them on my list. Problem with finances? Put it on my list. Problems with your emotional roller coaster? For my sake, put it on my list. I want to help you. All you have to do is ask.

4.) LEAVE IT ALONE
Don't wake up one morning and say, "Well, I'm feeling much stronger now, I think I can handle it from here." Why do you think you are feeling stronger now? It's simple. You gave me your burdens and I'm taking care of them. I also renew your strength and cover you in my peace. Don't you know that if I give you these problems back, you will be right back where you started? Leave them with me and forget about them. Just let me do my job.

5.) TALK TO ME
I want you to forget a lot of things. Forget what was making you crazy. Forget the worry and the fretting because you know I'm in control. But there's one thing I pray you never forget. Please don't forget to talk to me - OFTEN! I love you. I want to hear your voice. I want you to include me in on the things going on in your life. I want to hear you talk about your friends and family. Prayer is simply you having a conversation with me. I want to be your dearest friend.

6.) HAVE FAITH
I see a lot of things from up here that you can't see from where you are. Have faith in me that I know what I'm doing. Trust me, you wouldn't want the view from my eyes. I will continue to care for you, watch over you, and meet your needs. You only have to trust me.
Although I have a much bigger task than you, it seems as if you have so much trouble just doing your simple part. How hard can trust be?


7.) SHARE

You were taught to share when you were only two years old. When did you forget? That rule still applies. Share with those who are less fortunate than you. Share your joy with those who need encouragement. Share your laughter with those who haven't heard any in such a long time. Share your tears with those who have forgotten how to cry. Share your faith with those who have none.

8.) BE PATIENT
I managed to fix it so in just one lifetime you could have so many diverse experiences. You grow from a child to an adult, have children, change jobs many times, learn many trades, travel to so many places, meet thousands of people, and experience so much. How can you be so impatient then when it takes me a little longer than you expect to handle something on my to-do-list? Things occur on MY timetable, not yours. Trust in my timing, for my timing is perfect. Just because I created the entire universe in only six days, everyone thinks I should always rush, rush, rush.

9.) BE KIND
Be kind to others, for I love them just as much as I love you. They may not dress like you, or talk like you, or live the same way you do, but I still love you all. Please try to get along, for my sake. I created each of you different in some way.
It would be too boring if you were all identical. Please know I love each of your differences.

10.) LOVE YOURSELF
As much as I love you, how can you not love yourself? You were created by me for one reason only -- to be loved, and to love in return. I am a God of Love. Love me. Love your neighbors. But also love yourself. It makes my heart ache when I see you so angry with yourself when things go wrong. You are very precious to me. Don't ever forget that!
With all my heart I love you, GOD

Oh, don't forget to TALK to me.

P.S. I LOVE YOU ALL !!!!!!!