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Michael Bailey on Michael Jackson’s Sexuality

Posted Jul 01 2009 4:23pm

The Man Who Would Be Queen by Michael Bailey, a professor of psychology at Northwestern, isn’t just the best book about psychology I have ever read, it is one of the best books about anything I have ever read, right up there with Totto-Chan by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi and The Economy of Cities by Jane Jacobs.

Now Bailey has written a brilliant analysis of Michael Jackson’s sexuality. Bailey writes:

Jackson’s weirdness was so multifaceted that it presents both a challenge and an opportunity. . . . I propose an explanation of Michael Jackson that, if true, can explain several seemingly unrelated things:  the molestation accusations and interest in children, the obsession with Peter Pan, and the facial surgeries.

Plus the high-pitched voice. This is a basic point about causal inference not widely appreciated: If several rare things might have the same explanation, they probably do. Bailey’s conclusion is that Jackson had a very rare sexual identity disorder: He was sexually aroused by thinking of himself as a barely pubescent boy, just as a tiny number of men are sexually aroused by thinking of themselves as amputees (and these men try to become amputees) and a larger number of men are sexually aroused by thinking of themselves as a woman (and these men often have sex-change operations).

His facial surgeries made Jackson look unlike anyone else:

Normal people would hate to look like Michael Jackson did near the end of his life, and so normal people tend to assume that the surgeries were a series of big, compounded mistakes that Jackson must have regretted. Bad plastic surgery surely happens. But when it does, it is generally recognizable as a poor rendition of an aesthetically pleasing goal. Not so Michael Jackson’s face, which resembled nothing in the actual human, living world. Moreover, it has seemed to me that there was something coherent about the redesign of his face . . . If so, the 13 surgeries may be explained by something other than 13 different errors of judgment. . .

The face and the voice were both unnatural, and he went to a lot of trouble to have them. What was he trying to say and show with them? He told us, quite directly, the most likely answer.

“I am Peter Pan,” he said, more than once. He lived in Neverland. His second wife, Debbie Rowe, said that in order to get in the mood to have sex with her, Jackson dressed up as Peter Pan and danced around the bedroom. She said: “It made him feel romantic.”

Peter Pan, in the Disney version that Jackson knew, was a barely pubescent boy.

I wonder if diversity of sexual orientation persists because it produces diversity of occupation. People who enjoy unusual jobs have an advantage (less competition). Homosexual men probably have fewer children than heterosexual men — but what if homosexual men had an occupational advantage? Then they could make more money (or whatever) and their children would be better off. This would explain the persistence of homosexuality. Jackson, of course, was a huge occupational success. Bailey says a little about this:

Does my theory say anything about the origins of Michael Jackson’s tremendous talent? There are some correlations between sexuality and [occupational] abilities. For example, gay men are vastly overrepresented among professional dancers and fashion designers. This may reflect their increased interest in and dedication to dance and fashion, rather than natural talent per se. Autogynephiles [men sexually aroused by thinking of themselves as a woman] tend to be gifted in technical, mathematical, and scientific pursuits, with computer scientist being the prototypic autogynephilic occupation. But we don’t really know anything about the occupational interests of hebephiles [men attracted to barely pubescent boys], much less autohebephiles.

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