Ben Carson: Prison Sex Proves Being Gay Is A Choice

Ben Carson is inching closer to running for President, and he's continuing to pander to the most extreme elements of the Republican Party.

Dr. Ben Carson Speaks At Launch Of New Media Online Network In Scottsdale, Arizona

Ben Carson, the retired John Hopkins University Neurosurgeon who recently took one step closer to formally entering the race for the Republican nomination for President with the formation of a Presidential Exploratory Committee, told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that prison sex proves that homosexuality is a choice:

Ben Carson says homosexuality is a choice because many people “go into prison straight — and when they come out, they’re gay.”

The neurosurgeon and potential Republican candidate for president in 2016 made the comment in an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo that aired Wednesday on “New Day.”

Asked whether being gay is a choice, Carson responded: “Absolutely.”

Because a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight — and when they come out, they’re gay. So, did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question,” Carson said.

That argument, Carson said, “thwarts” the notion that homosexuality isn’t a choice, which is at odds with the majority of the medical community, including theAmerican Psychological Association, who says “most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.” Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern also outlined the scientific arguments against this particular belief last year.

Carson’s argument is made even more absurd, of course, by the fact that no small amount of the sex that takes place in prisons is non-consensual and that prison rape is such a widespread, albeit under-reported, problem that few people realize that because of it men actually outnumber women in the number of rape victims in the United States. So, essentially, what Carson is arguing here is that consensual homosexual relationships are the equivalent of rape. Leaving that aside, though, as the article quoted above notes, Carson’s claim goes against decades of medical science as well as the personal testimony of tens of thousands of gays and lesbians have indicated that their sexual orientation was anything but a choice. Despite that, of course, the argument that “being gay is a choice” is one that has been a mainstay of anti-gay conservatives for decades now. The idea, of course, is that if homosexuality is a choice then that means that gays and lesbians aren’t entitled to equal rights and that homosexuality is some kind of deviancy that society should seek to “cure.” In reality, it strikes me that the “choice vs. nature” debate is really quite irrelevant. Even if homosexuality were completely a choice, there’s no rational reason that people who are gay or lesbian shouldn’t be treated equally and entitled to equal rights. How they choose to live their lives is nobody else’s business unless they are harming the life, liberty, or property of others and, since that clearly isn’t the case then there’s no reason to discriminate against people because of their chosen lifestyle.

This isn’t the first extreme thing we’ve heard from the mouth of Ben Carson, of course. At various times since he became a conservative media star several years ago, Carson has equated the Affordable Care Act to the September 11th attacks, made frequent use of Nazi analogies to criticize the President, and said that “progressives” want to turn the United States into Nazi Germany, compared abortion to human sacrifices by civilizations of the past. While it’s easy to dismiss Carson’s remarks as those of an idiot, that’s obviously not the case given the fact that he was a skilled neurosurgeon and served as both the head of pediatric neurosurgery and as a professor at Johns Hopkins University Hospital. You don’t get to that point in your career by being stupid. Instead, it’s rather apparent that Carson is quite simply cynically pandering to the most extreme elements of the Republican Party’s conservative wing, where comments like this are more likely to be met by a nod of the head than a roll of the eyes. Much like Herman Cain in 2012, he’s not a serious candidate for President, he’s pandering to this particular base of the GOP for, well, I’m not exactly sure what purpose but I’m sure the idea of increased speaking fees and maybe a talk radio gig are involved in it somehow. This probably won’t be the last we’ll hear from Carson before he ends his campaign and drops out of the race, which will most likely happen before the first vote is cast in the Iowa Caucuses in February 2016, but don’t kid yourself at any point into believing he actually has any chance of being the Republican nominee, or that he even has any intention of being a serious contender.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. C. Clavin says:

    Republicans crack me up.
    Heck…you’ve even used the word “absurd” to describe them, and their actions, at least twice in the last 24 hours. And you are a dutiful water carrier.
    Conservatism has so much to offer this nation. Republicanism…nothing. Unfortunately, today, Conservatism is anathema for Republicans.

  2. jd says:

    Well, that’s just saying rape is a choice, so it fits in well with other Republican talking points.

  3. Slugger says:

    I never understood this line of argument. Lots of things are chosen and worthy of all protections of the law. Being a member of a church is a choice, and no one would infringe anyone’s rights on the basis that it was just a choice.
    BTW, when did we all choose up sides? I don’t remember gender role choice day when I was in school.
    Dr. Carson, you are making yourself sound dumb.

  4. gVOR08 says:

    Spot on.

    Isn’t it sad that the Republican base can’t see that he’s not serious. Judging by the number of people who do it, apparently one can make pretty good money by “running” for the GOP nomination.

  5. CSK says:

    I don’t think he’s a serious contender, either, not even in his own mind, but he did file the paperwork yesterday to form an exploratory committee for running. The fact that he came in fourth in the CPAC straw poll–ahead of Jeb Bush–must have encouraged him.

    We probably can expect more of this given that Sarah Palin and Herman Cain demonstrated how lucrative a novelty candidacy can be.

  6. Kylopod says:

    You don’t get to that point in your career by being stupid. Instead, it’s rather apparent that Carson is quite simply cynically pandering to the most extreme elements of the Republican Party’s conservative wing

    Those aren’t the only two choices. I used to be a big admirer of Dr. Carson–he’s got a great life story, and his work with conjoined twins was something that for a long time made me wonder didn’t attract the attention of the Nobel Committee. But the first thing that caught my attention that seemed a little off about him came years before I knew anything of his political leanings: despite being an accomplished, brilliant physician, he also happens to be a staunch, adamant creationist. He wasn’t running for president back then. I doubt he was “pandering” to anyone. This is what he believes. And he has a phenomenal ability to believe in things that his brains and education should naturally undermine.

  7. Dion Saenz says:

    @Slugger:
    1. Being gay is not a religion.
    2. Gays are always equating racial equality to sexual orientation equality…..and they are not equal. Discriminating because of race, gender, age, disability is disgusting. Discriminating because you like freaky deeky sex doesn’t make sense to some people.

  8. John H says:

    @Slugger:

    Well, in 1961 it was more of a “Gender Assignment Day”. Luckily, we had people of Carson’s ilk to make sure the choice was clear.

    And Doug – science and medical education is no vaccine against irrational beliefs and no proof of high quality thinking. If they were, then Mehmet Oz wouldn’t be a huckster for magic medicine, and Carson would be able to understand which way the weight of the evidence falls on this issue. Avarice, and the well known ways that beliefs are built in the face of the evidence, are much stronger influences than education.

  9. stonetools says:

    Here’s the issue.I have no problem with Dr. Carson thinking that homosexuality is a choice. TBH, science hasn’t definitely settled the issue.(FWIW, I think it isn’t purely a matter of choice). But Doug is 100 per cent right that it should have no bearing on whether gays should have equal rights on the law. Whether you are a Roman Catholic or Seventh Day Adventist is equally a matter ofchoice, but I’m certain Dr. Carson would have a problem with SDAs having fewer rights than a Roman Catholic.

    In any case, I doubt Carson is a serious Presidential candidate. He s just running to promote his anti-gay agenda and (probably) to make money.
    Looks like the Republican Party isn’t going to achieve Doug’s dream of embracing a libertarian agenda anytime soon.

  10. Kylopod says:

    @Dion Saenz:

    Gays are always equating racial equality to sexual orientation equality…..and they are not equal.

    I agree they are not the same. Bigotry based on race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation each have their own unique features that set them apart from the others. For example, religion is (at least partly) a matter of choice, whereas race is not–but that doesn’t make refusing to serve (say) a Mormon at your restaurant any more defensible than refusing to serve a black person. The point is, people in our society come up with a range of excuses for hating and mistreating others for reasons that shouldn’t be relevant. In that sense, homophobia isn’t any different from the other major categories of prejudice.

  11. Rafer Janders says:

    The idea, of course, is that if homosexuality is a choice then that means that gays and lesbians aren’t entitled to equal rights and that homosexuality is some kind of deviancy that society should seek to “cure.”

    You know what else is a choice? Being Christian or Jewish or Mormon. You’re not born any of those things, after all, they are instead beliefs and lifestyles that one chooses to adopt.

    And yet, of course, the same people who want to deny gays and lesbians equal rights because of this supposed “choice” would adamantly oppose denying rights to, say, Christians because, after all, belief in Christ was something they could “un-choose”….

  12. michael reynolds says:

    While it’s easy to dismiss Carson’s remarks as those of an idiot, that’s obviously not the case given the fact that he was a skilled neurosurgeon and served as both the head of pediatric neurosurgery and as a professor at Johns Hopkins University Hospital.

    I don’t think it’s a pander, I think he’s an idiot . . . at politics. Most of us are idiots at one thing or another. I’m good at my job but I am an unquestionably an idiot when it comes to anything mathematical.

    The difference being that I do have enough sense not to apply to be chair of the MIT physics department.

  13. Rafer Janders says:

    You don’t get to that point in your career by being stupid. Instead, it’s rather apparent that Carson is quite simply cynically pandering to the most extreme elements of the Republican Party’s conservative wing,

    Well, no. You can, indeed, get to that point in your career by being stupid — at least stupid about that area of knowledge. I’ve spent the last thirty years studying and working with large numbers of Ivy League graduates, many of whom are outright brilliant in their chosen fields — and yet almost everyone I know has at least one, if not many more, areas where their understanding of the subject doesn’t pass beyond a grade school level at best. it’s entirely possible for Carson to be smart about neurosurgery and yet a complete idiot about social sciences, economics, foreign policy and criminal justice.

  14. C. Clavin says:

    @gVOR08:

    the Republican base can’t see that he’s not serious

    R U kidding? They are applauding him for his brilliant insight. Why hasn’t anyone thought of that before, they are thinking.

  15. Kylopod says:

    @stonetools:

    Here’s the issue.I have no problem with Dr. Carson thinking that homosexuality is a choice. TBH, science hasn’t definitely settled the issue.

    I disagree. Science hasn’t settled whether it’s innate. But even if sexual orientation may be (at least partly) formed after a child is born, that still does not make it a “choice.” Most of us, gay or straight, would say that they’ve had their sexual orientation for as far back as they can remember. (I always ask straight people who bring this up, “Did you choose to be straight?”) There are exceptions, of course, and there’s a gray area when it comes to bisexuality, but the fact that most people didn’t choose their sexual orientation isn’t unsettled, it’s practically self-evident.

  16. gVOR08 says:

    @Rafer Janders: IIRC William Jennings Bryan opposed the teaching of evolution because of a memoir he’d read. The author was a Red Cross official who spent WWI in Belgium, quartered in a German headquarters, and heard the German officers defend their claimed superiority, and thereby their actions, with social evolution. Bryan felt accepting evolution would lead to rejecting God and to immorality. In @Kylopod:’s link, that’s where Carson’s head is. Throw in a dose of innumeracy (OK for surgeons) and he gets to the stock argument that something as complicated as the brain had to be created. So yes, entirely possible for a very bright person to get to where Carson is. (Also, he’s got a book to flog.)

    However, this displays a willingness to ignore evidence that should still be disqualifying for the presidency.

  17. Moosebreath says:

    @michael reynolds:

    “I don’t think it’s a pander, I think he’s an idiot . . . at politics. Most of us are idiots at one thing or another. I’m good at my job but I am an unquestionably an idiot when it comes to anything mathematical.”

    I’m not sure it’s politics he is an idiot about, but rather something emotional like empathy. Otherwise, this is spot on. As is what Rafer said.

  18. legion says:

    Carson needs to spend a lot more time in prison, researching this theory.

  19. gVOR08 says:

    @Kylopod: Molly Ivins (gawd I miss her) had a good take, that sex is not really a binary thing. It’s not 1 or 0, it’s 1 to 10. Some people are 1s or 10s, but a lot of people are 3s or 5s or 7s.

    (There are 10 kinds of people in the world. Those who understand binary and those who don’t. .)

  20. Kylopod says:

    @gVOR08: Well yes, that’s the basis of the Kinsey scale.

  21. al-Ameda says:

    @I really, really, really hope he’s gets to about 20% support in the GOP :
    This suggests that he does have idiot tendencies:

    Carson has equated the Affordable Care Act to the September 11th attacks, made frequent use of Nazi analogies to criticize the President, and said that “progressives” want to turn the United States into Nazi Germany, compared abortion to human sacrifices by civilizations of the past.

    This reminds me of just how obsessed Republicans are with homosexuality. Also, and not to pick a fight with a gay-sex-obsessed neurosurgeon, but, wouldn’t his statement suggest that those men who go in as heterosexual, and have sex with men, that they are bisexual?

    Ben Carson says homosexuality is a choice because many people “go into prison straight — and when they come out, they’re gay.”

    At any rate, I hope he gets strong support from base Republicans.

  22. Rafer Janders says:

    @gVOR08:

    So yes, entirely possible for a very bright person to get to where Carson is. (Also, he’s got a book to flog.)

    In fact, I’m often struck by how often people I work or went to school with had to basically ignore vast swathes of knowledge in order to have the time and focus to attain mastery in their fields. Neuroscience in particular is a demanding, time-intensive practice that involves long hours at work and often just as long hours spent keeping up with the latest research — therefore, the fact that you’re good at that one thing means that you’re actually less likely to know a lot about other things. You just don’t have the time, you don’t have the inclination, to be a well-rounded and knowledgeable generalist.

  23. TastyBits says:

    In prison, rape is a function of power. You are raped to take away your manhood. If you want a bitch, you turn out or punk somebody, and that is a function of weakness. Whether this is latent homosexualality or not, I have no idea, but it is an innate weakness.

    If you are wearing shower shoes with somebody’s name embroidered on them, you are their bitch. Moral of the story: do not wear anybody else’s shower shoes.

    Whether he knows it or not, Ben Carson is actually addressing whether or not a prison punk remains a punk on the streets, and if the punk does, whether or not this is due to a choice or his surroundings. In many cases, your prison status will follow you back out to the streets.

    For the weak, becoming a bitch is a survival technique.

  24. SKI says:

    While it’s easy to dismiss Carson’s remarks as those of an idiot, that’s obviously not the case given the fact that he was a skilled neurosurgeon and served as both the head of pediatric neurosurgery and as a professor at Johns Hopkins University Hospital. You don’t get to that point in your career by being stupid.

    I work with really talented doctors all day long. Many are complete idiots in areas that are outside their medical specialty – fewer perhaps than the general population but definitely still present.

  25. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    Having a neurosurgeon in the family: it’s not a designator of brilliance.

    You need a damned good memory to get through med school and the head and hands to cope with the job itself but being very intelligent or even “brilliant” in an intellectual sense is no requirement.

  26. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Politically speaking, the clown car really is the gift that just keeps on giving …

  27. Ken says:

    @Kylopod: the first thing that caught my attention that seemed a little off about him came years before I knew anything of his political leanings: despite being an accomplished, brilliant physician, he also happens to be a staunch, adamant creationist.

    I’m surprised at the length of time between those two. Speaking for myself, once I’ve discovered that someone is a creationist, especially a “staunch” one, I immediately have a pretty damned good estimation of their political leanings on just about any subject you care to mention.

    There are occasional exceptions – for example, when I learned that one of my new coworkers was a creationist, I was able to correctly identify his position on every single political issue that was ever discussed in the office before he even opened his mouth, with one exception – teachers unions. I have no doubt most here can easily guess why his position on that differed from the hardcore rightwing standard

  28. Kylopod says:

    @Ken:

    Speaking for myself, once I’ve discovered that someone is a creationist, especially a “staunch” one, I immediately have a pretty damned good estimation of their political leanings on just about any subject you care to mention.

    Most polls over the past few decades indicate that close to half of all Americans are creationist. It’s substantially more common among Republicans, but it’s still pretty high among Democrats too. In particular, African Americans–a group that votes overwhelmingly Democrat–are disproportionately likely not to believe in evolution. Having a Yale-educated physician believe in creationism is what’s unusual, regardless of race or partisan affiliation.

  29. An Interested Party says:

    Ben Carson says homosexuality is a choice because many people “go into prison straight — and when they come out, they’re gay.”

    Using this warped logic, one could say that black people are predisposed to be criminals since they make up such a large percentage of the prison population compared to their overall percentage of the whole population…perhaps Carson should have spent time at the Maryland State Penitentiary rather than Johns Hopkins…

  30. DrDaveT says:

    Does Ben Carson also believe that masturbation proves that most people are secretly gay? What could be more homosexual than sex with yourself?

  31. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @legion: I very wise man I know, a prison chaplain, said that his experience convinces him that homosexuality in prison isn’t a matter of choice or innate nature, but rather part of the power structure. The big dogs all have their “girlfriends.”

  32. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Rafer Janders: True. The problem is, knowledge (particuarly scientific knowledge) is so compartmentalized that a skilled brain surgeon can be a creationist while experiencing no awareness of cognitive dissonance.

  33. Barry says:

    @Kylopod: “despite being an accomplished, brilliant physician, he also happens to be a staunch, adamant creationist. ..”

    He’s also a sponsor of quack medicines, (‘glyconutrients’, or some such nonsense), so it’s likely that he’s just a dishonest person.

  34. Barry says:

    @Rafer Janders: “…it’s entirely possible for Carson to be smart about neurosurgery and yet a complete idiot about social sciences, economics, foreign policy and criminal justice.”

    Considering the sheer amount of hours and energy going into becoming a neurosurgeon, that level of skill might be positively correlated with ignorance on other matters.

  35. Barry says:

    @HarvardLaw92: “Politically speaking, the clown car really is the gift that just keeps on giving …”

    The problem is that our system is constructed so that a major party (particularly one which has the most support from the elites) will sooner or later get the Presidency, and maybe both Houses of Congress at the same time. I’d rather have a Bush I than any of the current weirdos.

  36. Kylopod says:

    @Barry:

    He’s also a sponsor of quack medicines, (‘glyconutrients’, or some such nonsense), so it’s likely that he’s just a dishonest person.

    Perhaps. Or he believes in their efficacy, out of a hostility toward “orthodox” medicine and science. I’ve personally known doctors like this.

  37. Barry says:

    @Ken: “I have no doubt most here can easily guess why his position on that differed from the hardcore rightwing standard”

    Was his wife a teacher, or his parents?

  38. Franklin says:

    Wow. Dr. Carson reversed direction today. And I mean almost 180 degrees compared to his past statements (although he says this has been his opinion all along!?):

    http://www.cbsnews.com/news/ben-carson-apologizes-for-hurtful-comments-on-gays/

  39. gVOR08 says:

    @Franklin: Entertaining. He is in so far over his head.

  40. bill says:

    it’s not like he’s electable so why people bother with him is beyond me.
    heck, obama said he was supportive of gays “lifestyle choices” (as in, they “choose to be gay”)- although that was after he was against gay marriage and such…..but he changed his mind again, or something.
    but hey, if y’all need to rub one out with this then go for it- it’s not gay!

  41. Kylopod says:

    @bill:

    heck, obama said he was supportive of gays “lifestyle choices” (as in, they “choose to be gay”)

    I had to look this one up. Googling it, I came to dozens of right-wing sites referencing a 12-minute interview with the President from around the time the Supreme Court was mulling over DOMA. These sites ignore almost the entirety of the interview (which covers several topics) and obsess on his single use of the phrase “lifestyle choice” within a discussion of same-sex marriage. This is then accompanied by the argument, “Libs gave their god a pass, when they call any conservative who says the same thing a bigot! Waah! Waah!”

    For those interested in the full context of his remarks, here they are:

    “The Supreme Court now is going to be taking on a case. My hope is that they go ahead and recognize what I think the majority of people in America now recognize, which is that two people who love each other and are treating each other with respect and aren’t bothering anybody else… why would the law treat them differently? There’s no good reason for it. I’m hopeful the Supreme Court comes to the right decision, but I will tell you, people’s hearts have opened up on this issue. People know that treating folks unfairly, even if you disagree with their lifestyle choice, fact of the matter is they’re not bothering you. Let them live their lives and under the law they should be treated equally and as far as me personally, just to see all the loving gay and lesbian couples that I know who are great parents and great partners, the idea that we wouldn’t treat them like the brothers and sisters that they are, that doesn’t make any sense.”

    Nowhere does Obama make the slightest suggestion that anyone’s sexual orientation is a “choice.” The phrase “lifestyle choice” here refers to same-sex relationships, not to a same-sex orientation. Furthermore, all he’s saying is that even if you personally disapprove of such relationships, which Obama does not, you should acknowledge they aren’t hurting anyone and should be left alone. He’s trying to be a little conciliatory toward people who still have trouble accepting homosexuality by appealing to a principle of tolerance. (It’s a standard debating tactic to temporarily assume the point of view of your opponents in order to show its limitations.) But because he uttered that unfortunate phrase “lifestyle choice,” that puts in the same category as a man who compared gays to child molesters. The false equivalence here is stunning, but it’s what I’ve come to expect from right-wing sites.

  42. bill says:

    @Kylopod: thx for googling and not asking for a link- it is 2015 after all. he said what he said- how you want to interpret it is up to you. speaking of “choice”- wasn’t david bowie gay for a while, when it was trendy ? and bill deblasio’s wife “used to be a lesbian”…. draw whatever conclusion you want from it but some people “choose” to be gay. not that ben carson’s analogy is correct on a broad scale- but then again, i’ve never been to prison and hope never to.

  43. Grewgills says:

    @bill:
    What you say only approaches being true if you define homosexual as actively having sex with someone of the same sex. That is a rubbish definition. I was heterosexual long before I ever had sex. I assume you had your sexual orientation long before you had sex as well. Were we asexual before we had sex? Did we choose our sexuality on the day or the hour that we first had sex?

  44. Kylopod says:

    @bill:

    thx for googling and not asking for a link

    I did it myself purely out of curiosity, nothing more. It is not my responsibility to investigate an out-of-context quote that you have uncritically accepted. Did it ever occur to you to check the things that you read before forming an opinion about them?