Matthew Yglesias has this to say about Elana Kagan, and the firestorm surrounding her:
This strikes me as part of a broader set of questions where I tend to see older straight liberals seeing things one way and gays and younger straight liberals seeing it differently.When you think about it, the whole reason these “it’s none of your business” situations arise is precisely because facts about your sexual orientation aren’t considered on a par with questions about one’s sex life. Straight people don’t normally discuss our sex lives with casual acquaintances or unknown readers, but we’re expected to over time bring dates to events or make passing reference to current or former partners. It’s when someone doesn’t do that stuff that people begin to wonder if the person is gay.
Oh my god.
I didn't realize...
Faithful readers, I'm looking back in my archives and, well, I don't see any passing references to current or former partners. I haven't been talking about current or former partners in passing with any except my closest friends... I haven't been seen in public lately with a date. I didn't have a date in the audience of any of my most recent shows...
I'm thinking about it, and, well, normally I'd keep this sort of personal information to myself -- I've never denied it, but I haven't been open with this aspect of my life before. I'm not necessarily sure people in my community would approve, actually. But I think it's important for me to come clean, and tell you about something which I thought effects only me, but may actually be a strong part of my identity and influence how I look at the world.
I'm a virgin.
Yes, that's right. There are no current or former partners for me to discuss, and I haven't had any dates lately. I try to keep this to myself because I didn't feel it was relevant to my work as a public figure, but reading Yglesias' post, I realize that my quiet on the subject may have led you all to speculate that I am gay.
I am not gay.
Anyways, sarcasm aside, as one of the small community of people who have retained their virginity past graduating from college, as well as being one of the few who do not drink, and from my unique vantage point of puritanism, I've noticed that what Yglesias is saying about the assumptions people make when you don't participate in the conversation.
Living amongst the college aged, believe you me I've seen entire conversations -- of upwards of an hour -- of people just talking about drinking exploits. Hell, some people make careers of it. Conversations that I am, by definition, excluded from. (I usually break in at some point to say, "And this one time, I had a cup of chamomile that had me slightly peppy for like twenty minutes!")
And that's what people talk about when they mean "peer pressure." Not "HEY YOU SHOULD DRINK THAT BEER" (although I've seen one or two examples of that), but just a culture in which people are expected to have some fun stories about sex or drinking stupidities to prove that they've "been there" and "done that."
If you don't, apparently it is completely fair to wonder about their identity. In Yglesias' context, it is wondering whether they are a closet case, but it applies equally to wondering if they're other things as well. That's the acidic effect of making assumptions.