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Cooking the Books on Sexual Orientation
May 6, 2009 8:43 AM   Subscribe

Teh gay can be cured. So declared the most influential sexologists of the late 20th century, William Masters and Virginia Johnson, in 1979, providing much-publicized scientific backing for the "conversion" theory, and dozens of right-wing efforts to prove that homosexuality is a psychological aberration that can be fixed. Or were those case studies fabricated? In his new biography of the couple who helped spark the sexual revolution, Thomas Maier uncovers the truth and the cover-up.
posted by digaman (108 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Overcome!
posted by billysumday at 8:47 AM on May 6, 2009


What's up with the shortened Amazon URL on the "biography" link?
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:52 AM on May 6, 2009


When the clinic's top associate, Robert Kolodny, asked to see the files and to hear the tape-recordings of these "storybook" cases, Masters refused to show them to him.

Withholding data is usually a great way to be outed as a scientific fraud.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:54 AM on May 6, 2009 [6 favorites]


Horace, since becoming a Twitter user (@stevesilberman), I've just gotten used to shortening URLs with bit.ly to avoid broken links. There's nothing insidious in that link.
posted by digaman at 8:54 AM on May 6, 2009


When the clinic's top associate, Robert Kolodny, asked to see the files and to hear the tape-recordings of these "storybook" cases, Masters refused to show them to him.

At the time, it was widely believed that teh gay was contagious, and perhaps even convertees might still be carriers. Best be safe than sorry. Loose hips shake ships and all that.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:59 AM on May 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I thought you cured homosexuality by legalizing gay marriage and leaving them alone.

(I'd argue that even if it were true that these folks had gone straight, sexual identity is inherent. I'd also posit that there were likely a few bisexuals in the sample that found it easier to just pass.)
posted by klangklangston at 9:01 AM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


And yeah, I find the bit.ly links obnoxious—I like to know where I'm going, and I don't need a "buy this book link."
posted by klangklangston at 9:02 AM on May 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


He's mentioned in one of the links, but no discussion of "conversion" is complete without Charles Socarides, who was an active and vocal proponent of curing gay.
posted by univac at 9:04 AM on May 6, 2009


Masters and Johnson... wow. I haven't heard them mentioned in many, many years. Possibly not since Gay Talese published Thy Neighbor's Wife. It's always a shame when scientists lose it at the end.

I'm guessing that human sexuality research wasn't a high funding priority during the Bush years.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:07 AM on May 6, 2009


Oh fine, fine, I won't use bit.ly links on MeFi anymore.
posted by digaman at 9:08 AM on May 6, 2009


I assume using a bit.ly link will break the Metafilter Amazon referrer.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 9:09 AM on May 6, 2009


[Fixed the link. Please don't use url shorteners here—it obscures the actual link, accomplishes nothing useful, and is occasionally used by nasty folks for explicitly shady purposes.]
posted by cortex at 9:10 AM on May 6, 2009


Charles Socarides, who was an active and vocal proponent of curing gay.

And of course, he had a gay son. The universe does love a good joke.
posted by rtha at 9:11 AM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm highly skeptical of conversion claims, but since we still don't really know what causes homosexuality for sure, I'm interested in seeing some real data; I'm not criticizing the post, just saying. The fact is that it is extremely hard to find objective data regarding homosexuality, because it seems like everyone with something to say has a very obvious agenda (on all sides). Me, I'm just genuinely curious (not BI-curious, har-har-har). Just to be clear, MY agenda is one of tolerance. No matter what the truth is, I don't imagine it would have any effect on that.
posted by Edgewise at 9:14 AM on May 6, 2009


Just to be pedantic, sexual orientation and sexual identity are generally two different things. One is considered to be largely inherent, while the other is not.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:15 AM on May 6, 2009


Of course liberal states will be running reverse clinics to gay people up.
posted by Artw at 9:17 AM on May 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


Edgewise: Well, generally what goes on is that the varying groups tend to play fast-and-loose with their terminology. "Ex-gay" therapies generally consider homosexuality in terms of behavior, while LGBT opponents of reparative therapies generally focus on underlying psychological characteristics.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:19 AM on May 6, 2009


I don't believe homosexuality is curable (nor a disease to be cured), however, it's clear that almost any behaviour can be altered through so-called "brainwashing" techniques. Give me permission and time and legal allowances, and I can make you fear the giant mustard people of Alpha Centauri are coming to eat you. I can easily see people being convinced and coerced that their homosexual behaviours (not their homosexuality, please note) are horrible/evil/yucky. From that, stimulating the pleasure centres of the brain with positivity about physical interaction with the opposite sex could fill that mental void.

But again, this is all about altering behaviour not curing homosexuality. For the people convinced their is a cure, this is probably good enough for them.
posted by Kickstart70 at 9:21 AM on May 6, 2009


reparative therapies

Now *there's* an Orwellian misnomer.
posted by digaman at 9:21 AM on May 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


The prospect of public embarrassment, of being exposed as a fraud, greatly upset Johnson, a self-educated therapist who didn't have a college degree and depended largely on her husband's medical expertise.

You can do that??

Cool, so I'm already more than halfway to my goal of worldwide acclaim as a neurosurgeon. The line starts here for your cutting edge medical care.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 9:21 AM on May 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


Of course liberal states will be running reverse clinics to gay people up.

We've already set those up across the country. Haven't you heard of rush week?
posted by troybob at 9:23 AM on May 6, 2009 [15 favorites]


Teh gay can be cured.

Thank god. I was sure I caught it on my last Mexican vactation.

Now that I'm in the clear, Jose, call me.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:26 AM on May 6, 2009 [9 favorites]


but since we still don't really know what causes homosexuality for sure,

Well, we don't really know what "causes" heterosexuality, either. Sexual orientation (which all people have, of course - straight, gay, bi, all, none, etc.) is very likely some combination of genes and hormones, and for a lot of people it may change and flex a little over the years. In order to be a good study, I think it would need to examine the "changeability" of both self-identified gay people and self-identified straight people.

But it would also have to be change not just in terms of behavior, which is easy enough (well, not easy, but you know what I mean), but also in terms of feelings, which are much more difficult to measure.
posted by rtha at 9:27 AM on May 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


This subject never fails to make me sad. It just brings me immediately back to being a kid and wanting so much to just be normal that I would do ANYTHING. Pray? Sure. Take these pills? Absolutely. Hate myself? Happy to! Cry myself to sleep? You bet.

Thankfully, the only thing that was "just a phase" was the self-loathing.
posted by greekphilosophy at 9:31 AM on May 6, 2009 [56 favorites]


but since we still don't really know what causes homosexuality for sure,

Well, we don't really know what "causes" heterosexuality, either.


Maybe we should stop treating sexuality as a medical condition. Just an idea.
posted by The World Famous at 9:45 AM on May 6, 2009 [10 favorites]


"The criticisms are based on old concepts," Masters replied dismissively to the press.

Yeah! Inventing data and making up cases is all new school, baby! Those old science fogies don't know what they're talking about, fake data and creative writing is where it's at!
posted by splice at 9:47 AM on May 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


> When the clinic's top associate, Robert Kolodny, asked to see the files and to hear the tape-recordings of these "storybook" cases, Masters refused to show them to him.

> Withholding data is usually a great way to be outed as a scientific fraud.


Or start a religion!
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:48 AM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Celebrating its 10th anniversary and sadly as relevant as ever...

Gay Gene Isolated, Ostracized
posted by Joe Beese at 9:48 AM on May 6, 2009


The World Famous: Maybe we should stop treating sexuality as a medical condition. Just an idea.

Certainly. But I really don't agree that people study sexual development because they see it as a medical condition to be treated ala John Harvey Kellogg. Most people get involved in human sexuality research out of a sense that understanding leads to better appreciation of human diversity.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:50 AM on May 6, 2009


"Just to be pedantic, sexual orientation and sexual identity are generally two different things. One is considered to be largely inherent, while the other is not."

That's a fair point, especially regarding orientation and identity as terms of art in sexuality discussions, and I shouldn't have been so loose with them. On the other hand, I do kind of see orientation as an identity issue, and think of it as a subjective identity. I suppose that gets into the thorny issue of behavior versus identity (are we the things we do?) and authenticity (is "passing" possible?).

And it's all muddled by the lack of absolutes and relatively limited experience of any one person, especially when you're trying to have an inclusive discussion (certainty for most, but not all!).
posted by klangklangston at 9:53 AM on May 6, 2009


"Most people get involved in human sexuality research out of a sense that understanding leads to better appreciation of human diversity."

I thought most people got involved in human sexuality research because they were randy bastards who wanted empirical sex (or at least an academic sheet to poke through).
posted by klangklangston at 9:54 AM on May 6, 2009


Some friends of mine growing up had first-edition copies of "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex but Were Afraid to Ask". The books treatment of homosexuality reflected this attitude that being gay was a sexual perversion marked by behavior. The book went a step further and claimed that, deep down, all homosexual men wished they were women.

In a later chapter mentioning hormone imbalances causing gynemastia, the authors couldn't help adding that "any queen would be delighted".

Whether or not these notions came from the M&J research or were popular gay stereotypes of the time it was written is anybodys guess.
posted by dr_dank at 10:13 AM on May 6, 2009


Teh gay can be cured.

If it's a switch, it can be flipped both ways. I say we weaponize it and use it on anti-gay rights advocate's pets.

They seem like the kind of people who would be crushed to find out that Spot likes Spike.
posted by quin at 10:13 AM on May 6, 2009


Everyone is gay.

-Dr Cobain
posted by grubi at 10:13 AM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I thought most people got involved in human sexuality research because they were randy bastards who wanted empirical sex (or at least an academic sheet to poke through).

I thought the sex-through-a-sheet thing was old world Jewish!
posted by hippybear at 10:14 AM on May 6, 2009


Of course gay people can "overcome" the urge to have gay sex. Just like any person can "overcome" the urge to eat. Except in the second case, we pathologize those people as "anorexics".

This strikes at the heart of the fallacy made by Ex-Gay advocates - they treat homosexuality as exclusively a behavior. If they can get some gay guy to start having sex with women instead of men, then hey! He's cured! But they refuse to address the fact that the dude is probably still jerking off to the thought of naked guys, or hiring male hookers . Or perhaps the guy wasn't a 5 on the Kinsey scale to start with.
posted by muddgirl at 10:15 AM on May 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


Maybe we should stop treating sexuality as a medical condition. Just an idea.

*cancels Help Stamp Out Sexuality Now! telethon*
posted by FelliniBlank at 10:16 AM on May 6, 2009


greekphilosophy your comment is so sweet and sad - full of that desperate, sincere energy of youth to try anything. It reminds me of Stephen Fry's letter to his 16 year old self in some tangent ways, which I think fits well in this thread:

"...Oh, lord love you, Stephen. How I admire your arrogance and rage and misery. How pure and righteous they are and how passionately storm-drenched was your adolescence. How filled with true feeling, fury, despair, joy, anxiety, shame, pride and above all, supremely above all, how overpowered it was by love. My eyes fill with tears just to think of you. Of me. Tears splash on to my keyboard now. I am perhaps happier now than I have ever been and yet I cannot but recognise that I would trade all that I am to be you, the eternally unhappy, nervous, wild, wondering and despairing 16-year-old Stephen: angry, angst-ridden and awkward but alive. Because you know how to feel, and knowing how to feel is more important than how you feel. Deadness of soul is the only unpardonable crime, and if there is one thing happiness can do it is mask deadness of soul."

He goes on eloquently about the trials of being gay, young and then growing older. I'm all for science. But some things are better examined by artists.

greekphilosophy, congrats on the emergence from your self-loathing.
posted by dog food sugar at 10:16 AM on May 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


Whether or not these notions came from the M&J research or were popular gay stereotypes of the time it was written is anybodys guess.

It's not as vague as all that. There are people actually still alive who remember when that book was published in 1969, shockingly enough... like me. The book was amusing pseudomedical horseshit for a bestseller audience. David Reuben, M.D. also claimed that shopkeepers couldn't keep enough ripe melons on the shelves in gay ghettos because the tender flesh was perfect for jacking off.
posted by digaman at 10:20 AM on May 6, 2009




Has anyone figured out how to cure Teh Straight? I've had it nigh on 47 years, and I see no sign of any relief.
this gay cure shit pisses me off so bad
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:33 AM on May 6, 2009


quin: I say we weaponize it
posted by MuffinMan at 10:34 AM on May 6, 2009


@rtha,

Well, we don't really know what "causes" heterosexuality, either. Sexual orientation (which all people have, of course - straight, gay, bi, all, none, etc.) is very likely some combination of genes and hormones, and for a lot of people it may change and flex a little over the years. In order to be a good study, I think it would need to examine the "changeability" of both self-identified gay people and self-identified straight people.

I totally agree, but that seems to be precisely where agendas rear their ugly mugs.

@Kickstart70

I don't believe homosexuality is curable (nor a disease to be cured), however, it's clear that almost any behaviour can be altered through so-called "brainwashing" techniques.

The problem is that if this is true, then (theoretically) it can work in the other direction, too. What is the difference between "real" heterosexuality and "brainwashed" heterosexuality? How do we know when to "believe" a test subject when they say they feel one way or another? It's all very nebulous.

@TheWorldFamous

Maybe we should stop treating sexuality as a medical condition. Just an idea.

What does this even mean in the context of this conversation? That we should stop trying to figure out what determines sexuality? Maybe we should all form up into a Tolerance Circle and hold hands, and forget all this talk of "causes."
posted by Edgewise at 10:35 AM on May 6, 2009


What's just icky wrong about the persuasion of conversionists is how they typify homosexuality as an "addiction". The poor gay has been given no room for hir sexual desires to be acceptable, so the repression forces hir to enjoy sex under a guilt-umbrella. And while using the word "hir", even RA Wilson's "Prometheus Rising" features an anecdote where Timothy Leary cures a man of his "addiction." Dangerous.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 10:37 AM on May 6, 2009


klangklangstonI thought most people got involved in human sexuality research because they were randy bastards who wanted empirical sex (or at least an academic sheet to poke through)

Mary Roach's book Bonk was an excellent read on this exact subject.
posted by dr_dank at 10:42 AM on May 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well HELL.
posted by grubi at 10:44 AM on May 6, 2009


It's true that homosexuals can be cured. It's a difficult and time-consuming process, but it you've ever eaten gay prosciutto, you know just how worth the extra effort it is.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 10:44 AM on May 6, 2009 [24 favorites]


What does this even mean in the context of this conversation?

I was thinking of it in terms of "curing" homosexuality. But the study of sexuality should not be off-limits, or thought of as pathologizing it. That's my read, anyway.
posted by rtha at 10:56 AM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sadly, this just demonstrates the ongoing lack of, & need for, a cure for teh stoopid.
posted by Pronoiac at 10:56 AM on May 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


The gospel according to M&J crumbles with a poke. But will Liam Neeson take on the role in the biopic, or is Ben Kingsley the hands down favorite? Lisa Lampanelli could have a promising career as Johnson!
posted by ThistleDownHair at 10:56 AM on May 6, 2009


Nthing any book by Mary Roach - though the one on dead bodies is not for the squeamish (It's where I learnt the term "de-gloving")
posted by Artw at 11:06 AM on May 6, 2009


I think the issue is that Masters and Johnson sounds like a drag cabaret act.

"I'm Masters and she's Johnson! Kisses everyone! KISSES! Let's start the show with Mac the Black from The Pirate! Sing along if you know it!"
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:08 AM on May 6, 2009


That's entertainment.
posted by grubi at 11:19 AM on May 6, 2009


It's true that homosexuals can be cured. It's a difficult and time-consuming process, but it you've ever eaten gay prosciutto, you know just how worth the extra effort it is.

Older sausage is an acquired taste.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:23 AM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


If this thread is going to turn into nothing but gay sex jokes then I am just going to pull up a chair and make myself comfortable.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:39 AM on May 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is that jamon iberico or are you just offering to show me the Alhambra?
posted by Pollomacho at 11:40 AM on May 6, 2009


David Reuben, M.D. also claimed that shopkeepers couldn't keep enough ripe melons on the shelves in gay ghettos because the tender flesh was perfect for jacking off.

1) If this were true, why wouldn't straight guys be just as, uh, into melons?

2) I thought gay guys didn't like melons.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:03 PM on May 6, 2009


Charles Socarides, who was an active and vocal proponent of curing gay.

And of course, he had a gay son. The universe does love a good joke.

I can't help but wonder if Charles has ever felt guilty, thinking perhaps he was responsible for turning his son gay by bringing home all those gay germs or nuetrons or whatever the heck he thought caused teh gay. Thinking it was all his fault. That would be.... awesome.
posted by Bageena at 12:08 PM on May 6, 2009


Homosexuals are not homogeneous.
posted by binturong at 12:14 PM on May 6, 2009


And um, given the coverage of the Time article that went into descriptions of all the ways homosexuals had better sex than heterosexuals, why would anyone want to be straight.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:17 PM on May 6, 2009


I like it when famous people are wrong.
posted by Ynoxas at 12:20 PM on May 6, 2009


I thought gay guys didn't like melons.

Everyone likes melons.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:33 PM on May 6, 2009


How the hell do you jack off a melon?
posted by box at 12:41 PM on May 6, 2009


I thought gay guys didn't like melons.

Everyone likes melons.


I don't like melons.

Look, we're on The West Wing!
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 12:50 PM on May 6, 2009 [6 favorites]


Has anyone figured out how to cure Teh Straight?

I've found that a 12-pack of Bud is a sufficient, if temporary, cure.
posted by troybob at 12:56 PM on May 6, 2009 [11 favorites]


Ah, melons. Even there names invite sexual activity. I mean, I can just see a melon crooking me a come-hirther stare and calling out, oh, honey, DO.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:56 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Homosexuals are not homogeneous.

Nor pasteurized, which probably explains why teh gay is so contagious.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:56 PM on May 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


I thought it was pretty much assumed that all social science research is made up. No?

In all seriousness, this reeks of fraud, and since it is being used by the religious right to support discriminatory politics, it is important to dig up the truth here.
posted by LarryC at 12:59 PM on May 6, 2009


If endless "Will and Grace" reruns couldn't cure everybody of TEH GAY, what possibly could?
posted by jenkinsEar at 1:06 PM on May 6, 2009


Withholding data is usually a great way to be outed as a scientific fraud.

Can't withhold data you don't have!
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:10 PM on May 6, 2009


If endless "Will and Grace" reruns couldn't cure everybody of TEH GAY, what possibly could?

Gah. Will & Grace. What an awful show. Yes, it's amusing, but honestly, if those four people are supposed to be close, supportive friends, I hope I remain lonely forever. Never has so much hate and awfulness been acted out in the name of "humor". Jebus.
posted by hippybear at 1:12 PM on May 6, 2009


If endless "Will and Grace" reruns couldn't cure everybody of TEH GAY, what possibly could?

Seriously, I think we owe a nice debt to Will & Grace. It was perhaps uneven as a show and played it a bit safe (though I thought it had some neat moments), but it was a cool bit of mainstream-targeted PR. I think a big step in acceptance of gays is that what anti-gay groups used to count on--the fear of the unknown demon--doesn't play as well to those who have seen what gay looks like in real life (or at least filtered through the popular culture, no more or less distorted than any other aspect of reality so treated).

Plus, my thing is that I'll maintain a decent measure of gratitude for anyone who makes gay life easier for those who follow me.
posted by troybob at 1:20 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


What's just icky wrong about the persuasion of conversionists is how they typify homosexuality as an "addiction".

The apparently irrational excesses of the rabidly anti-gay folks, and especially this kind of talk from them, becomes perfectly understandable if you assume that they are gays who have committed themselves to acting heterosexual. They believe that everyone experiences the same feelings as they do and that it is godly and righteous to resist those temptations. And they understand how compelling those temptations are and what a supreme effort it takes to resist them. When I assume this, all their unseemly interest in the topic as well as their apparent belief that it takes extreme will to avoid being homosexual fall into place. I pity them in a way, because I believe they don't realize their own predicament.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:26 PM on May 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


posted by quin If [Teh Gay] is a switch, it can be flipped both ways. I say we weaponize it and use it on anti-gay rights advocate's pets. They seem like the kind of people who would be crushed to find out that Spot likes Spike.

Fetch!
posted by mattdidthat at 1:33 PM on May 6, 2009


As a bit of data in the nature/nurture debate:
Gay people's brains structured like those of the opposite sex
Homosexuality is biological, suggests gay sheep study (Which says pretty much the same as the first one, just in sheep instead of humans)

...so maybe it is possible to "cure" homosexuality, but you'd need to be a pretty damn fine neurosurgeon to do it. Possibly even a neurosurgeon with a time machine.

Personally, I'm in favour of finding the switch and using it to make everyone bisexual. As a side effect of dramatically expanding dating pools it'd help to cure our overpopulation problems (fewer breeding couples formed) and open up whole new plotlines for writers of mainstream sitcoms. There's really no downside to my plan.
posted by metaBugs at 1:38 PM on May 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


troybob: "Seriously, I think we owe a nice debt to Will & Grace. "

America being the country that it is, that show probably did more to advance the cause than every lobbying organization put together.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:40 PM on May 6, 2009


Personally, I'm in favour of finding the switch and using it to make everyone bisexual.

Some of us believe that the majority of people are bisexual, to some extent. Or at least that we're much less black-and-white than we pretend to be.
posted by muddgirl at 1:47 PM on May 6, 2009


"Some of us believe that the majority of people are bisexual, to some extent. Or at least that we're much less black-and-white than we pretend to be."

That's what I keep telling my girlfriend, but she says, "You first."
posted by klangklangston at 1:56 PM on May 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


I just read the first letter in Dan Savage's latest column (a rather cool father seeks advice on his gay son). It reflects a very beautiful thing. Sadly for me it also seems to scratch an abiding pain and anger about how deeply alone and wrong I felt for a long time. It's odd to me how I can read hundreds of stories about injustice and intolerance, and it's the one story about a gay youth growing up the way it ought to be that shakes me up. Then I can come to this thread and be reminded how much longer some people get to ride that train, and the wide cast of characters that will keep punching their tickets. I guess what I'm putting together here is nothing more or nothing less than that all of these ideas and their associated cultural baggage, one way or another, actually matte a lot in terms of pain versus joy in real people's lives. I do think most everyone here gets that. This community rocks. <3
posted by Bokononist at 2:35 PM on May 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh and yay Maine! But that's a different thread.
posted by Bokononist at 2:38 PM on May 6, 2009


I'm highly skeptical of conversion claims, but since we still don't really know what causes homosexuality for sure, I'm interested in seeing some real data; I'm not criticizing the post, just saying.

Here is the best you'll do. And a longitudinal study showing change for some homosexuals and heterosexuals over time. Some gay men don't claim they had any homosexual feelings at all until their 20s and 30s. It's not all unhappy, confused 13 year olds, who didn't like rough and tumble play when they were 8. But that's definitely a significant fraction.

A British study found that one in six psychiatrists have attempted to help a patient alter homosexual feelings. William Saletan at Slate argued that the 'heterogeneity of homosexuality' suggests this could be helpful to some people, properly identified.

Lesbians are typically ignored in the scientific politics of homosexuality. The "born with it" etiology is used as the "PC" explanation for homosexuality in general, when it better describes the science of male homosexuality, and when many, if not most, lesbians prefer to stress how their sexuality has a lot (or everything) to do with choice.

It seems like an accident of history to me that there is a "PC" explanation for homosexuality at all. I don't see what the cause of homosexuality has to do with its morality or its wantedness. Just because something is genetic doesn't suggest we have to like it or learn to live with it, and just because something is a choice or changeable doesn't mean we should change it.

It strikes me as a pure insecurity over the legitimacy of homosexual behavior as a choice, that some have to yell so loudly about it being innate. Like it can only be justified if viewed as an involuntary disability; like there could be no merits to it as a choice.

Perhaps it is true. If the subtext of homosexual support is that homosexual behavior is worse than normal-- like deafness or Down Syndrome-- then why would anti-homosexuals believe any differently?


I don't believe homosexuality is curable (nor a disease to be cured), however, it's clear that almost any behaviour can be altered through so-called "brainwashing" techniques.

No, this is not "clear," and the APA does not endorse the claim.
posted by dgaicun at 2:44 PM on May 6, 2009 [6 favorites]


worse than normal-- like deafness or Down Syndrome

Wow, that's a huge claim right there that a lot of progressives would disagree with. A lot of progressives are fighting the idea that "different from normal" is equivalent to "worse than normal."
posted by muddgirl at 3:00 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just because something is genetic doesn't suggest we have to like it or learn to live with it, and just because something is a choice or changeable doesn't mean we should change it.

This is what I generally don't like about the push for proof that homosexuality is genetic. If you put your eggs in that basket, you betray the more important argument that homosexuality is just fine even if it were purely by choice.

Not that I mind if it is proven genetic; I just don't think the social issues around it rely on this detail one way or the other.
posted by troybob at 3:01 PM on May 6, 2009


Brilliant, dgaicun.
posted by jamjam at 3:12 PM on May 6, 2009


It seems like an accident of history to me that there is a "PC" explanation for homosexuality at all. I don't see what the cause of homosexuality has to do with its morality or its wantedness. Just because something is genetic doesn't suggest we have to like it or learn to live with it, and just because something is a choice or changeable doesn't mean we should change it.
This is a very good point. At the risk of kicking off some almighty flamewar, there's a related discussion to be had about paedophilia. Homosexuality can be described as a result of the brain getting set to be aroused by the "wrong" target, from an evolutionary point of view. Instead of the trait of pursuing the opposite sex, something in the brain strays from the usual programme (like the different brain morphologies described by the article I lined above) and fixates on the same sex instead. This is all between informed, consenting adults, so it's great; even if we could change it, there's absolutely no need to.

However, the hyposthesis ran, there are other instances where this system goes wrong and people end up in love/lust with inanimate objects or children. This raises some interesting questions. Paedophilia is horrifying when children end up suffering because of it. Given the deservedly strict taboos and terrible stigma, it seems safe to assume that many (most?) paedophiles never end up acting on their impulses. If the attraction is simply an irreversable result of someone's unlucky genes/womb environment, what can we, as a society, ethically do with them? Lock them up so they can't be tempted? Apply the "conversion" techniques to remove or mask the urge? Life for these peadophiles must be as horrifying for as it is/was for homosexuals when that was illegal. I don't really see any way they can lead happy lives unless a "cure" is found. Gay people had (or are having) enough of a revolution that they can live their lives openly so a lot of this suffering is coming to an end; this can obviously never be allowed to happen for paedophiles.

NB: I am NOT saying that homosexual acts and paedophilic acts are morally equivalent; a homosexual adult can give informed consent to sex, whereas a child clearly cannot. I'm just hypothesising that the underlying urges might have a similar biological root. Further, that the feelings of a repressed homosexual and a repressed paedophile (guilt, self-loathing, desperation to be "normal", etc) might be equivalent. I'm well aware that vanishingly few gay people are paedophiles, and that not all paedophiles are gay. Big disclaimer, but it's a touchy subject.

It strikes me as a pure insecurity over the legitimacy of homosexual behavior as a choice, that some have to yell so loudly about it being innate. Like it can only be justified if viewed as an involuntary disability; like there could be no merits to it as a choice.
In case you're partly responding to my post, I'd like to say that I don't care whether it's nature, nurture or (almost inevitably IMO) a complex mixture of the two. I just want to know because the answer will tell us some fascinating things about how our minds work. The question has an answer that will continue to be true regardless of what politics get projected onto it.
posted by metaBugs at 3:28 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


So, what about bisexuals then? Are we only half wrong? Can we be half-cured?

This reminds me of something a (gay) friend of mine once said (after consuming a lot of alcoholic beverages that may or may not have involved melons):

"Gay people are a mistake that G-d made. You're just a... fruithead."
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:58 PM on May 6, 2009


grapefruitmoon: "So, what about bisexuals then? Are we only half wrong? Can we be half-cured?"

Yeahhh, some of the worst discrimination I've heard is from gay people along the lines of "make up your mind already".
posted by boo_radley at 4:24 PM on May 6, 2009


So, what about bisexuals then? Are we only half wrong? Can we be half-cured?

Last year, AskMen put out a (decidedly unscientific) survey, and I found one of the results quite interesting. Take a look at this page and scroll down to question #37:

Q: What is your opinion on homosexuality?
40% I believe that it is a lifestyle choice, though not necessarily an immoral one
33% I believe that it is a lifestyle choice, and an immoral one
27% I believe that sexual orientation is determined at birth


If I take Kinsey's scale to be located on a bell curve, it isn't too far of a leap to see that the 40% who responded to this survey as [choice, not immoral] could be those at the center of the bell curve. Men for whom sexual attraction DOES run fluidly between both genders could easily and understandably say that homosexuality IS a choice, and this survey does fit very rough bell-curve outlines.

Obviously there is not more information than this contained in this data. And IANAS&PT (I am not a statistician & poll taker) but I'm just sayin'...
posted by hippybear at 4:52 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Q: What is your opinion on homosexuality?

The option for "A Bit of Environment, a bit of genetics and a bit of choice." seems to be decidedly missing. I think that anything so complicated as this would have to have all of these variables figured in somehow.
posted by Nauip at 6:48 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nauip: Um... did you even look at that survey? I mean, really. You're expecting way too much. Get a little context.
posted by hippybear at 7:09 PM on May 6, 2009


Charles Socarides, who was an active and vocal proponent of curing gay.

And of course, he had a gay son. The universe does love a good joke.


If anything could make me believe in God, that would.
posted by orange swan at 9:06 PM on May 6, 2009


Yeahhh, some of the worst discrimination I've heard is from gay people along the lines of "make up your mind already".

I'm not 100% positive, but bisexuals may think being refused civil rights, jobs, right of residence, being beaten to a pulp or murdered could be worse discrimination.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:18 AM on May 7, 2009


"So, what about bisexuals then? Are we only half wrong? Can we be half-cured?"

I half-cure bisexuals by officiating their commitment* ceremonies.

(Used to be marriage before California got stupid.)
posted by klangklangston at 12:27 AM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am gay because I love cock, and I'm male. That's all there is to it. If I'd wanted to screw vaginas, I would have been straight. I guess if I'd been interested in screwing butts, I would have been bisexual. The fact I also like tits and appreciate beautiful women has nothing to do with it (no lust).

That being said, I do believe that many self-identified straight males have the capacity for bisexuality. This opinion is based on heterosexual men whom I attempted to seduce, with a high degree of success.

Back in the old days, before homosexuality was so widely talked about, the seduction of straights was something of a sport, for out gays. Since I got started in my early teens, I had the advantage of youth. Amazing how many grown "straight" men were happy to screw the face of a male teenager. That many straight male teenagers also enjoyed this is really not an indication of much of anything, given the neediness of teenager (but does supply me with some fabulous memories). And none of this is based on the selection of men forced to live in the absence of women (where 'availability' <> 'absence'). Most subjects were selected based on their picking me up hitchhiking, which, I'll admit, does create some non-zero level of selection bias.

I will also say, this did lead to some amusing situations where the guy picking me up was hoping to seduce me! Typically they were rather up-tight about the whole thing, and there were situations where I realized what was happening very quickly. The other side is where I was surprised to discover the seduced man was in fact a gentleman, who felt that sex required some love-making. These are filed under "fondest memories" (o-la-la, for short).
posted by Goofyy at 12:59 AM on May 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm not 100% positive, but bisexuals may think being refused civil rights, jobs, right of residence, being beaten to a pulp or murdered could be worse discrimination.

I am 100% positive that any bisexual in a same-sex relationship is going to get this kind of discrimination (been there!) and also, that ostracizing bisexuals from the greater Queer Community because you want to win the title of Most Oppressed isn't actually winning you any sympathy.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:22 AM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Homosexuality is biological, suggests gay sheep study

Well of course the gay sheep are going to say that!

*should probably read the article
posted by Pollomacho at 4:32 AM on May 7, 2009


I suspect that the bisexual and transgender (they get it even worse than bisexual people, only being permitted to reside in queer community if they provide some sort of camp entertainment value) in-hate is of the same variety that is lobbed at gays from middle-America/its equivalent all over the world. It has a sort of "yuk" factor to it. And the hate can probably best be summed up in the question-statement combination: "You like what? Eeeeew."

It's sad when gays replicate their oppressors, but if we're shocked at that behavioral model we've got a lot of learning to do about the effects of oppression and abuse.
posted by greekphilosophy at 6:51 AM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


The case of gays being discriminatory against bisexuals has a lot to do with broken hearts, and stories that get repeated. I've known a few guys that lost partners because the partner suddenly decided he wanted to be with a female, instead.

Clearly, this is really no different, and even less prevalent, than the number of guys that lost partners because they decided they wanted to be with a different guy. But that doesn't take the sting out. Frankly, the discriminatory behavior isn't justified, but often it is merely a personal thing, in which case, is it even right to label it as "discrimination"? I have never known bisexuals to get thrown out of gay businesses, but only out of gay beds.
posted by Goofyy at 7:19 AM on May 7, 2009


I don't see how anyone who has been a human and has known more than 2 or 3 others in their lifetime could believe anything other than the "gradient" theory, where everyone lies on some point of a gradient between gay and straight.

I believe shame is still the number one motivator of revealed sexual preference and orientation.

For instance, I love women. I say that as understatement of the year. I LOVE WOMEN. I love all women. I love tall or short, thin or fat, young or old and every measure in between. I love all the obvious body parts, as well as everything else. I love fingers and toes and belly buttons and necks and collarbones and elbows. If I am intimate with a woman, there will likely be not one square millimeter of their body I have not touched, kissed, and caressed.

I say that to put it in perspective, that although I am "girl crazy", I also can imagine several scenarios where I could be interested in and participate in gay activities.

I've not done so thus far in my life, but not because I am revolted or bothered. It would be most accurate to say I'm just not that interested in it and never bothered to seek it out.

So, I am not a 100% on the straight/gay scale. I may be 90/10, or 80/20, or maybe even 50/50 and just don't know it due to lack of experience. I would think 100/0 and 0/100 would both be exceedingly rare.
posted by Ynoxas at 8:02 AM on May 7, 2009


You love elbows? Fre-

Wait. The inner side or the outer side?
posted by Pronoiac at 8:16 AM on May 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


ostracizing bisexuals from the greater Queer Community because you want to win the title of Most Oppressed isn't actually winning you any sympathy

I think you missed my point entirely and completely. But no matter.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:23 AM on May 7, 2009


On TV the evil mirror universe versions of ladies are always a bit bi, making bisexual ladies the most oppressed of all.
posted by Artw at 11:32 AM on May 7, 2009


On TV the evil mirror universe versions of ladies are always a bit bi, making bisexual ladies the most oppressed of all.

Yeah but that's just because TV and other shit drama is so pre-adolescent they can't get beyond the very basic levels of power representation and therefore women seeking possesive power over other women must have sexual power over them as well or at least in the alternative they must undermine the sexuality of the "good guy" women (represented by stealing their men).
posted by Pollomacho at 12:37 PM on May 7, 2009


Also cos it's hot.
posted by Artw at 1:21 PM on May 7, 2009


I think you missed my point entirely and completely. But no matter.

That's certainly possible. It seemed like you were framing it that "bisexuals would agree that gays have it worse" - which, is kind of a weird thing to say.

As for gay businesses vs. gay beds - as a bisexual, if I had a nickel for every time I was told I wasn't "really" queer or that being bisexual "didn't count" by a member of the Queer Community... well, I'd at least be able to afford a grande latte by now. I know that's not really "businesses" but what I'm saying is that it goes beyond the "left for a woman" stereotype. Which really, is almost as bad as saying that you're justified in hating people from Ecuador because your boyfriend left you for a guy from Ecuador. It's a stupid, stupid post-hoc rationale for discrimination. "Bisexuals can't commit!" is just utter crap. Half of these stories are urban legend, the other half are just instances of people being flawed human beings and not in any way representing the Bisexual Community (such as we are). I personally have never heard of this legitimately happening in my long tenure of bisexuality and I have heard of PLENTY of crazy shit that's gone down in other people's relationships with regard to sexual orientation/preferences/identity/etc.

"The horny bisexual" is just as real as the "man hating lesbian." That is to say, a grossly overexaggerated stereotype based on maybe five, total, actual people.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 1:56 PM on May 7, 2009


Oh man, I just made a list of pet peeves and forgot to include "Girls who describe themselves as bi-curious to attract guys." Now, THOSE, I have met. In droves.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 1:57 PM on May 7, 2009


The case of gays being discriminatory against bisexuals has a lot to do with broken hearts, and stories that get repeated. I've known a few guys that lost partners because the partner suddenly decided he wanted to be with a female, instead.

Clearly, this is really no different, and even less prevalent, than the number of guys that lost partners because they decided they wanted to be with a different guy. But that doesn't take the sting out.


I don't agree with this explanation. I'm a straight woman whose first love was a gay guy and who got utterly shattered by the experience. It didn't turn me against gay men. If anything it made me more sensitive and open-minded towards homosexuality. There has to be more to the discrimination towards bisexuality by gays than just fear or bitterness because a partner might or has left you for someone on the other team. I mean, that's just a really shitty and immature excuse for bigotry. I never blamed my first love for being gay. We don't choose who we are attracted to. I do blame him for being a shit, but that's another matter, and it doesn't mean I project his individual failings or issues onto a large subset of the human race.
posted by orange swan at 8:58 PM on May 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


I love tall or short, thin or fat, young or old and every measure in between. I love all the obvious body parts, as well as everything else. I love fingers and toes and belly buttons and necks and collarbones and elbows.

Whatcha doing Saturday?
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:03 PM on May 7, 2009


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