Argues that choice, as a form of interpretation, is completely intertwined with the development of both sexualorientation and sexual identity. Sexualorientation is not simply a given, or determined aspect of personality.
In the last decade, fierce controversy has arisen over the nature of sexualorientation. Scientific research, religious views, increasingly ambiguous gender roles, and the growing visibility of sexual minorities have sparked impassioned arguments about whether our sexual desires are hard-wired in our genes or shaped by the changing forces of society. In recent years scientific research and popular opinion have favored the idea that sexual orientations are determined at birth, but philosopher and educator Edward Stein (...) argues that much of what we think we know about the origins of sexual desire is probably wrong. Stein provides a comprehensive overview of such research on sexualorientation and shows that it is deeply flawed. Stein argues that this research assumes a picture of sexual desire that reflects unquestioned cultural stereotypes rather than cross-cultural scientific facts, and that it suffers from serious methodological problems. He considers whether sexualorientation is even amenable to empirical study and asks if it is useful for our understanding of human nature to categorize people based on their sexual desires. Perhaps most importantly, Stein examines some of the ethical issues surrounding such research, including gay and lesbian civil rights and the implications of parents trying to select or change the sexualorientation of their children. The Mismeasure of Desire offers a reasoned, accessible, and incisive examination of contemporary thinking about one of the most hotly debated issues of our time and adds a compelling voice of dissent to prevailing--and largely unexamined--assumptions about human sexuality. (shrink)
Should parents be able to select the sexualorientation of their children, if that were possible through prenatal interventions? _Ethics, SexualOrientation, and Choices about Children_ reviews the history of this debate which started in the 1970s and has been invigorated by scientific reports about the origins of sexualorientation. This book describes the debate and offers an evaluation of key issues in parental rights, children's rights, and family welfare.
There are no technologies at the present time that would allow parents to select the sexualorientation of their children. But what if there were? Some commentators believe that parents should be able to use those techniques so long as they are effective and safe. Others believe that these techniques are unethical because of the dangers they pose to homosexual men and women in general. Both sides point to motives and consequences when trying to analyse the ethics of (...) this question. These arguments are reviewed, and it is concluded that opponents of these technologies have not shown good reason why the law or policy should override parental choice in this matter. In general, therefore, if technologies become available to choose the sexualorientation of children, parents should be allowed to use them, provided they are safe and disrupt no interest of the child. This use will, at the very least, protect homosexual children from parents who do not want them, but it will also allow parents who want homosexual children to make that choice as well. (shrink)
There is increasing interest in understanding what role, if any, sex and sexualorientation play in body dissatisfaction, its correlates to distress, and its relationship to disordered eating. The goals of the present study were to examine: (a) differences in sex and sexualorientation in internalization of societal pressure to modify physical appearance, components of body image dissatisfaction, self-esteem, and eating disorder symptomatology and (b) whether the internalization-eating disorder symptomatology was mediated by the different components of (...) body image dissatisfaction and low self-esteem. The present data support several key trends in the literature: men generally reported less body dissatisfaction, internalization of socio-cultural standards of beauty, drive for thinness, and disordered eating, but a greater drive for muscularity than women; results also indicated that different components of body image dissatisfaction and low self-esteem partially mediated the relationship between internalization and eating disorder symptomatology. Gay men reported significantly more body dissatisfaction, internalization, eating disorder symptomatology, drive for thinness, and drive for muscularity than heterosexual men. Compared to heterosexual women, lesbians reported increased drive for muscularity, lower self-esteem, and lower internalization; however, they did not significantly differ on body dissatisfaction, drive for thinness or disordered eating. Correlation coefficients between body shape dissatisfaction and several aspects of mental distress were significantly larger for gay men than heterosexual men; the same coefficients did not differ between lesbian women and heterosexual women. Results of path analyses indicated that the relationship between internalization and disordered eating differs for gay and heterosexual men but not for lesbian and heterosexual women. These results call attention to lesbians as a generally understudied population. (shrink)
In this address, I outline my “Exotic-Becomes-Erotic" theory of sexualorientation (Bem, 1996) , which provides the same basic account for both opposite-sex and same-sex erotic desire—and for both men and women. It proposes that biological variables do not code for sexualorientation per se but for childhood temperaments that influence a child’s preferences for sextypical or sex-atypical activities. These preferences lead children to feel different from opposite-sex or same-sex peers—to perceive them as “exotic.” This, in (...) turn, produces heightened physiological arousal that subsequently gets eroticized to that same class of peers: Exotic becomes erotic. The theory claims to accommodate both the empirical evidence of the biological essentialists and the cultural relativism of the social constructionists. I also discuss sex differences in sexualorientation and the political implications of trying to explain homosexuality. (shrink)
Although biological findings currently dominate the research literature on the de- terminants of sexualorientation, biological theorizing has not yet spelled out a developmental path by which any of the various biological correlates so far iden- tified might lead to a particular sexualorientation. The Exotic-Becomes-Erotic (EBE) theory of sexualorientation (Bem, 1996) attempts to do just that, by sug- gesting how biological variables might interact with experiential and sociocultural factors to influence an individual’s (...)sexualorientation. Evidence for the theory is reviewed, and a path analysis of data from a large sample of twins is presented which yields preliminary support for the theory’s claim that correlations between genetic variables and sexualorientation are mediated by childhood gender non- conformity. (shrink)
This paper probes the implications of a genetic basis for sexualorientation for traditional branches of Judaism, which are struggling with how accepting to be of noncelibate gays and lesbians in their communities. The paper looks at the current attitudes toward homosexuality across the different branches of Judaism; social and cultural factors that work against acceptance; attitudes toward science in Jewish culture; and the likelihood that scientific evidence that sexualorientation is at least partly genetically determined (...) will influence Jewish scholars' and leaders' thinking on this issue. (shrink)
A developmental theory of erotic/romantic attraction is presented that provides the same basic account for opposite-sex and same-sex desire in both men and women. It proposes that biological variables, such as genes, prenatal hormones, and brain neuroanatomy, do not code for sexualorientation per se but for childhood temperaments that influence a child's preferences for sex-typical or sex-atypical activities and peers. These preferences lead children to feel different from opposite-or same-sex peers Ã¢â¬â to perceive them as dissimilar, unfamiliar, (...) and exotic. This, in turn, produces heightened nonspecific autonomic arousal that subsequently gets eroticized to that same class of dissimilar peers: Exotic becomes erotic. Specific mechanisms for effecting this transformation are proposed. The theory claims to accommodate both the empirical evidence of the biological essen-. (shrink)
Some propositions on male and female sexualorientation will be considered. Some of these are established; others are more speculative. The aim is to offer some notes towards a coherent, comprehensive theory of sexualorientation. 1. The distinction between butch and femme lesbians seems real rather than a social construct. 2. High levels of prenatal steroid hormones seem to be causally associated with the sexualorientation of butch lesbians. However it is not established whether (...) the causal process operates prenatally or postnatally (or both). This is so because prenatal hormone levels are thought to correlate positively with postnatal hormone levels. And high postnatal hormone levels may facilitate homosexual behaviour as a consequence of sensation-seeking. 3. Male bisexuals also are interpreted to have been exposed to high prenatal testosterone levels. But (for reasons similar to those outlined above in regard to butch lesbians) it is unclear whether these have a direct prenatal effect on the brain or whether they are precursors of high postnatal testosterone levels, which are associated with male bisexual orientation by promoting sensation-seeking behaviour. 4. Postnatal learning processes seem to be causally involved in the sexualorientation of some femme lesbians and some exclusive male homosexuals. 5. Some homosexual men have genes that predispose to their sexualorientation. 6. The same may apply to some lesbians, but such genes have not, as far as I know, been identified. 7. People (of both sexes) who engage in same-sex sexual behaviour may be classified simultaneously in two ways, viz (1) vs and (2) those who do and those who do not engage (or consider engaging) in sex with members of the opposite sex. Exhypothesi, some of the ones initiate some of the ones. The active ones are driven more by hormones and the passive ones by psychosocial factors. The active males contain a substantial proportion of self-identified bisexuals; and the active females a substantial proportion of self-identified butches. 8. These two active categories (butch lesbians and male bisexuals) share a number of endocrinological, psychological, morphological and behavioural features vis-à-vis their exclusively homosexual and heterosexual peers. Methods of testing some of these ideas are presented. (shrink)
The study investigated whether homosexual men are, on average, born a shorter time after their next[hyphen]older siblings than are heterosexual men. Because of mixed evidence that birth intervals are longer after a male child, the sex of the next-older sibling was included as a control variable. The probands were 220 heterosexual and 183 homosexual men with at least one older sibling examined in Southern Ontario in 1994–95. These completed a self-administered, anonymous questionnaire concerning their family background and other biodemographic information. (...) The results showed that birth interval was negatively correlated with sibship size, positively correlated with maternal age, and uncorrelated with paternal age. They also confirmed that birth intervals are longer after a male than after a female child. The mean birth intervals preceding heterosexual and homosexual males, however, were virtually identical, indicating that the association of short birth intervals with decreased sex hormone levels in cord blood is unrelated to the development of sexualorientation. (shrink)
In this article, we evaluate the status of current biological research into sexualorientation and examine the relevance of such research on the legal and social status of gay men and lesbians. We begin with a review of hormonal, neuroanatomical and genetic studies of sexualorientation. We argue that the scientific study of sexualorientation is, at best, still in its infancy. We turn then to the ethical and social implications of this research. We (...) argue that even if scientists could explain how sexualorientation develops, no significant ethical conclusions would follow. Further, we suggest that the current emphasis on finding a biological basis for sexualorientation is potentially harmful to lesbians, gay men and other sexual minorities in various ways (although perhaps it is in some ways potentially helpful as well). (shrink)
Throughout history, women and men have been seen as "opposites" in various respects. Examples from the writings of political theorists illustrate this point, while Virginia Woolf is shown to have departed radically from the general tendency to dichotomize sexual difference. Further, this "need" to dichotomize sexual differences contributes to anxiety about and stigmatization of homosexuality. As the social salience of gender becomes reduced, it is to be expected that hostility to homosexuality will decline.
Abstract: This essay explores recent trends and major issues related to gay and lesbian philosophy in ethics (including issues concerning the morality of homosexuality, the natural function of sex, and outing and coming out); religion (covering past and present debates about the status of homosexuality and how biblical and qur'anic passages have been interpreted by both sides of the debate); the law (especially a discussion of the debates surrounding sodomy laws, same-sex marriage and its impact on transsexuals, and whether the (...) law should be used to enforce morality); scientific research into the origins of homosexuality (including discussion of arguments against such research); and metaphysics (especially the question of whether homosexuality is socially constructed during particular times and in particular cultures, or whether sexualorientation is an essential trait cutting across times and cultures). (shrink)
There have recently been a number of high profile political incidents, and legal cases, that raise questions about hate speech. At the same time, the tensions, and perceived conflicts, between religion and sexuality have become controversial topics. This paper considers the relationship between religious freedom, free speech and equality through an analysis of recent case law in Great Britain, Canada and the United States. The paper starts with a discussion of how conflicts between these values arise in areas such as (...) hate speech and explores the differences between the European and US approach to this issue. In Council of Europe member states there is an increasing use of the criminal law to regulate hate speech. This paper argues that criminalisation of hate speech poses a distinct risk to the values of free speech and proposes alternative non-legal responses such as a greater use of cultural policy. The paper also explores a range of cases where the religion and sexualorientation conflict has arisen in areas such as the workplace. An analysis of these cases suggests that although there is no perfect resolution of this issue, it is possible to develop a set of principles that encourage a balance between the values of religious freedom, free speech and equality even in difficult situations where there is a conflict between religion and sexuality. The paper concludes with some practical recommendations for managing the tensions or conflicts between religious freedom, free speech and equality in liberal democracies. (shrink)
Petrovic (1999) argues that teachers need to portray homosexuality positively and must not express their beliefs against it. This rejoinder argues against this position, maintaining instead that teachers need to teach about heterosexuality and homosexuality in a balanced manner. I argue against Petrovic's position both on the grounds that it has internal weaknesses and on the grounds that its consequences would be undesirable.
We present a few linguistic and bio-futuristic musings in honor of Alan Turing and his legacy. We follow some of the connections Turing used or made between humanness, language, intelligence, deception, gender, sexualorientation, and computational modeling in his exploration of the world. We also take inspiration and continue further along some of these lines.
In many jurisdictions the list of factors for which anti-discrimination law applies has been expanded to include sexualorientation. As a result, moral and legal difficulties have arisen for religious organizations whose basic beliefs include the belief that sexual acts between persons of the same sex are immoral. In light of these difficulties, is anti-discrimination law of this sort unjust? Recently John Finnis has argued that, as commonly applied, such anti-discrimination law is disproportionate and therefore unjust. In (...) this essay, I critically examine Finnis’s argument, and argue that, on account of the conception of disproportionateness that is employed, it does not succeed. So as to enable the argument from disproportionateness to succeed, I develop and defend a modified conception of disproportionateness. -/- . (shrink)
This study mothers. The results confirmed earlier reports that boys with older brothers weigh less at birth than boys with older sisters, but they did not confirm reports that girls with older brothers weigh less than girls with older sisters. The results did not show across-the-board differences in the mean birth weights of homosexual versus heterosexual women or homosexual versus heterosexual men. However, the homosexual males with older brothers weighed about 170 g less at birth than the heterosexual males with (...) older brothers. It is suggested that this pattern of results may reflect a maternal immune response to Y-linked minor histocompatibility antigens (H–Y antigens). According to this hypothesis, when the maternal immune response is mild, it produces only a slightly reduced birth weight, but when it is stronger, it produces a markedly reduced birth weight as well as an increased probability of homosexuality. (shrink)
This study is an analysis of 186 psychologists' attitudes on what constitutes ethical practice when counseling clients who present with a range of concerns related to their experience of same-sex attraction and behavior. Three different groups of psychologists were surveyed: generalists, specialists in gay and lesbian issues, and religiously affiliated psychologists. Participants also rated the effectiveness of several professional experiences in providing education, direction, sanctions, or support to regulate the practice of counseling nonheterosexual clients. Significant group differences were found regarding (...) what is considered best, acceptable, and unacceptable practice with clients presenting with same-sex attraction issues. Significant differences were also found among the three groups in what respondents rated as effective elements of their clinical experience. Keywords: gay, lesbian, religion, survey. (shrink)
Androphilia refers to sexual attraction and arousal to adult males, whereas gynephilia refers to sexual attraction and arousal to adult females. In Independent Samoa, androphilic males, most of whom are effeminate or transgendered, are referred to as fa’afafine, which means “in the manner of a woman.” Previous research has established that fa’afafine report significantly higher avuncular tendencies relative to gynephilic men. We hypothesized that Samoan fa’afafine might adopt feminine gender role orientations with respect to childcare activity. If so, (...) then the fa’afafine’s femininity might be a proximate mechanism for promoting their elevated avuncular tendencies. Our analyses indicated that fa’afafine had significantly higher willingness to assist in the childcare of nieces and nephews than childless women, mothers, or men, none of whom differed from each other on this measure. Thus, femininity does not appear to explain the fa’afafine’s pattern of avuncular tendencies, nor the women’s pattern of materteral (i.e., aunt-like) tendencies, relative to gynephilic men. We discuss how the fa’afafine “third” gender status might influence the expression of their elevated avuncular tendencies. (shrink)
The kin selection hypothesis posits that male androphilia (male sexual attraction to adult males) evolved because androphilic males invest more in kin, thereby enhancing inclusive fitness. Increased kin-directed altruism has been repeatedly documented among a population of transgendered androphilic males, but never among androphilic males in other cultures who adopt gender identities as men. Thus, the kin selection hypothesis may be viable if male androphilia was expressed in the transgendered form in the ancestral past. Using the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample (...) (SCCS), we examined 46 societies in which male androphilia was expressed in the transgendered form (transgendered societies) and 146 comparison societies (non-transgendered societies). We analyzed SCCS variables pertaining to ancestral sociocultural conditions, access to kin, and societal reactions to homosexuality. Our results show that ancestral sociocultural conditions and bilateral and double descent systems were more common in transgendered than in non-transgendered societies. Across the entire sample, descent systems and residence patterns that would presumably facilitate increased access to kin were associated with the presence of ancestral sociocultural conditions. Among transgendered societies, negative societal attitudes toward homosexuality were unlikely. We conclude that the ancestral human sociocultural environment was likely conducive to the expression of the transgendered form of male androphilia. Descent systems, residence patterns, and societal reactions to homosexuality likely facilitated investments in kin by transgendered males. Given that contemporary transgendered male androphiles appear to exhibit elevated kin-directed altruism, these findings further indicate the viability of the kin selection hypothesis. (shrink)
The main issue in the Masiya judgment was whether the current South African definition of rape—namely non-consensual penetration of a vagina by a penis—should be extended to include anal penetration of both female and male victims. The majority of the Constitutional Court held that anal penetration of female victims should constitute rape, but declined to offer similar protection to male victims. This note argues that this judgment reverts to and reinforces patriarchal stereotypes and dichotomies and that it misunderstands, in a (...) profound way, central concepts such as sex and gender and the gendered nature of rape. It further suggests that, instead of being an aberration, the judgment actually fits into a pattern of conservative judgments about gender and sexuality by the South African Constitutional Court. (shrink)
Is the closet just a metaphor? Closet Spaces provides a highly original account of the spatial metaphor of "the closet," and is the first geography text to focus on this important issue. Using a variety of research techniques and materials the book explores the closet through diverse texts such as the oral histories of gay men in the UK and US and international travel guides and travelogues.
Following extensive examination of published and unpublished materials, we provide a history of the use of dexamethasone in pregnant women at risk of carrying a female fetus affected by congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). This intervention has been aimed at preventing development of ambiguous genitalia, the urogenital sinus, tomboyism, and lesbianism. We map out ethical problems in this history, including: misleading promotion to physicians and CAH-affected families; de facto experimentation without the necessary protections of approved research; troubling parallels to the history (...) of prenatal use of diethylstilbestrol (DES); and the use of medicine and public monies to attempt prevention of benign behavioral sex variations. Critical attention is directed at recent investigations by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Office of Human Research Protections (OHRP); we argue that the weak and unsupported conclusions of these investigations indicate major gaps in the systems meant to protect subjects of high-risk medical research. (shrink)