Tuesday, June 08, 2004

gays and Korea University

The following data come from the June 2004 issue of Korea University's English-language student publication, The Granite Tower, No. 378.

These data come from a poll taken of 455 KU students, with a breakdown of 51.4% male, 47.9% female. They peg the sampling error at +/-4.41%.

1. Do you know a homosexual person?
Male: 22.2% yes; 77.8% no
Female: 24.8% yes; 75.2% no
TOTAL: 23.5% yes; 76.5% no

2. Have you ever thought you might be homosexual?
Male: 10.7% yes; 89.3% no
Female: 15.6% yes; 84.4% no
TOTAL: [no result given; you do the math]

3. Have you ever felt sexual attraction toward a member of your own sex?
Male: 4.3% yes; 94.9% no
Female: 15.1% yes; 84.4% no
TOTAL: 9.5% yes; 89.9% no

4. Have you ever come in contact with cartoons, novels, movies, or websites dealing with homosexuality?
Male: 42.9% yes; 56.3% no
Female: 61.4% yes; 38.1% no
TOTAL: 53.8% yes; 46.2% no

5. When did you first come in contact with those cartoons, novels, movies, or websites?
Middle/High School: 80%
University: 17%
Elementary School: 1%

6. How do you feel about homosexuality?
a. We must accept it as a different sexual orientation.
Male: 39.7%
Female: 52.8%
TOTAL: 46.2%
b. We must accept it as a different sexual orientation, but I think it is immoral.
Male: 34.6%
Female: 35.3%
TOTAL: 34.9%
c. It is a mental disease which requires remedy.
Male: 17.9%
Female: 6.0%
TOTAL: 12.1%
d. I do not know.
Male: 7.7%
Female: 6.0%
TOTAL: 6.8%

7. What do you think of legalizing same-sex marriage?
Male: 40.2% agree; 58.5% disagree; 0.9% no response
Female: 57.3% agree; 42.2% disagree; 0.5% no response
TOTAL: 48.6% agree; 50.5% disagree

8. What do you think of the restriction on homosexual contents aimed at teenagers?
49.8% agree; 49.9% disagree
[NB: I'm not sure why, but I found this one of the most interesting and culturally revealing answers in this whole survey. Am still chewing this one over. Meanwhile, look at the even split.]

9. If you were a homosexual, would you come out?
71.2% no; 26.4% yes
[NB: No surprise here, though I do wonder whether any openly gay person would suffer the fate of Matthew Shepard in Korea. Write in with your comments.]

10. What is the reason you would not come out?
38%: I do not feel the necessity to come out.
[NB: This is a vaguely-worded and safe answer. I'd like to see the original Korean question. This question has a high bullshit factor because it's too softball.]
36%: I am afraid of acquaintances' reaction.
[NB: Now we're getting somewhere.]
9%: It is shameful to be homosexual.
8%: I am afraid of barriers in employment, promotion, etc.
7%: Other.

11. What do you think of [homosexuals as political leaders]?
67.9%: Job and sexual orientation are different things, so it does not matter.
21.3%: It is not appropriate for [a] homosexual to be a political leader.
9%: I support it as a protection of human rights.
1.8%: No response.
[NB: I'm not sure why the possible answers were constructed this way. To me, the "human rights" and "does not matter" responses contain a huge amount of overlap.]

12. What would you do if a close friend told you he/she was homosexual?
a. Our relationship would not change.
Male: 46.2%
Female: 67.9%
TOTAL: 56.7%
b. Our relationship would not change, but I would try to persuade him/her to reconsider.
Male: 35.9%
Female: 24.8%
TOTAL: 30.5%
c. I would not contact him/her anymore.
Male: 11.5%
Female: 1.8%
TOTAL: 6.8%
d. Other.
Male: 2.6%
Female: 3.2%
TOTAL: 2.9%

The Granite Tower article accompanying this survey notes (correctly, I think) the disparity between male and female students' responses to the survey questions. Their conclusion (page 15):

Generally in this survey, female students tend to be more open-minded towards gays and lesbians. This trend appears in many other surveys worldwide. Hahn Chae-yun, the editor of eBuddy, a homosexual magazine, agreed about this difference in attitude. "Males tend to think of homosexuality as a sexual concept, while females [think of it as] a psychological concept. Therefore, generally men hold more negative opinions about homosexual[ity]," said Hahn.

The article concludes:

Michel Foucault, the French philosopher who has been one of the most influential scholars in modern society attacked the notion that sexual orientation has any objective existence, viewing [it] instead as [a social construction.] It seems [that], while there are still some who are not favorable to homosexuality, many KU students are following Foucault's saying.

Hahn says, "Considering the results of [the] survey, it seems that most students are having vague opinions about homosexuality. I hope they understand homosexuality more. Imagine if your family member or close friend was homosexual and suffering from mental anguish, can anybody blame him or her?" Also in this survey, we could find out that respondents who have come in contact with homosexuals are more tolerant about them. Many students say accepting homosexuals is an important step towards an ideal pluralistic society which can be in harmony with minorities.

The current common wisdom is that sex is biological, while gender is a construction. I'll go along with this to some extent, with the caveat that the biological realities of sex are themselves complex, while also affirming that the cultural realities are very much tied to the biological. It has been the project of some theorists with little to no background in science to attempt to remove biology totally from the equation when talking about human sexuality, and to me this is patently ridiculous. At the same time, the human character is both multiform and protean, so it's just as simplistic for people to assert the inevitable supremacy of biology in this discussion. To misquote the wisdom of Captain Kirk in "Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country": "Reality is probably somewhere in between."


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