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ANSWERS IN PSYCHOLOGY NO.3
ISBN: 978-1-904542-23-0 PUBLISHED BY Orsett Psychological Services, PO Box 179, Grays, Essex RM16 3EW UK COPYRIGHT Kevin Brewer 2006 COPYRIGHT NOTICE All rights reserved. Apart from any use for the purposes of research or private study, or criticism or review, this publication may not be reproduced, stored or transmitted in any form or by any means, without prior permission in writing of the publishers. In the case of reprographic reproduction only in accordance with the terms of the licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency in the UK, or in accordance with the terms of licences issued by the appropriate organization outside the UK.
Page Number INTRODUCTION Terminology Defining Sexual Orientation Nature and Nurture NATURE SIDE Evolution Sex Chromosomes Specific Gene(s) Hormones Instinctive Learning or Imprinting Structures in the Brain Evaluation of Nature Side NURTURE SIDE Gender Atypical and Non-Conforming Behaviour Learning Family Dynamics Psychodynamics Social Construction of Sexual Identity Evaluation of Nurture Side CONCLUSIONS FOOTNOTES REFERENCES APPENDIX 1: BISEXUALITY APPENDIX 2: CELIBACY 3 3 6 7 8 9 13 14 16 19 21 23 25 25 27 29 32 34 43 44 46 48 55 57
The Nature-Nurture Debate on Human Sexual Orientation; Kevin Brewer; Answers in Psychology No.3; ISBN: 978-1-904542-23-0
SEX GENDER SEXUALITY SEXUAL ORIENTATION Sexual orientation and behaviour seem to be core parts of an individual. Today, in Western society, it manifests itself in diverse ways, but at the same time in traditional ways:
Sexual diversity has been a familiar fact of life throughout recorded history.. In the industrialised North for the past several centuries the main focus for regulating and controlling it has been through fashioning a sharp divide between heterosexual ("normal") and homosexual ("abnormal", "perverted", "deviant") patterns (Weeks 2001 p5).
Heterosexuality is the behaviour of the vast majority (or so it seems). But how many people are in the homosexual minority depends on the definition used. It is estimated that around 2% of women and 4% of men worldwide live exclusively as homosexuals (MacKay 2000). The accuracy of this figure is open to question, and is larger including individuals who hide their homosexuality or who are not exclusive in that sexual preference. Kinsey et al's (1948) classic study of white US males found that 37% admitted to some homosexual experience (to the point of orgasm) in adolescence or adulthood. Reanalysis of a sub-sample of this data, by Gagnon and Simon (1973), to include experiences after the age of fifteen years only, produced a figure of around 15%. While any homosexual experience by age forty-five for women was reported at 20% (Kinsey et al 1953). Mosher et al (2005 quoted in LeVay and Valente 2006), using modern sampling techniques with the National Health Statistics Center (NHSC) survey in the US, found that only 1.5% of men and 0.7% of women were exclusively attracted to the same sex. This research may be more accurate because it was a self-administered computerbased survey. TERMINOLOGY It is always important to clarify the terms involved
The Nature-Nurture Debate on Human Sexual Orientation; Kevin Brewer; Answers in Psychology No.3; ISBN: 978-1-904542-23-0 2006 3
in understanding behaviour, particularly when the terms are confused in everyday language. The key terms to clarify here are "sex", "gender", and "sexuality" or "sexual orientation". 1. Sex This refers to the individual's biological sex, and is based upon their physical make-up, and is established at a number of levels (Hutt 1972) (table 1).
MALE Chromosomes in every cell Reproductive organs Dominant hormones External genitalia XY testes testosterone penis FEMALE XX ovaries oestrogen/ progesterone vagina
Table 1 - Biological sex differences. Usually the categories of biological sex are male or female. However, there is also hermaphrodite (an individual who has both biological sexes), and intersexual (an individual whose biological sex is unclear) (1). An individual who changes by operation from one biological sex to another is known as a trans-sexual (2). 2. Gender This is the behaviour that is associated with a biological sex, and each society has its own expectations of this. It is a "learned quality" (MacKinnon 1982). The categories are "masculine", "feminine", and "androgynous" (neither clearly masculine nor feminine) (3). It is assumed in society that men will be masculine and women feminine, but this is not inevitable. 3. Sexuality and sexual orientation This is the area that concerns us here. Sexual orientation refers to the preference for sexual partner(s). The choices are: Heterosexual - the preference for individuals of the opposite biological sex.
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Homosexual - the preference for individuals of the same biological sex. Bisexual - no particular preference or interest in both biological sexes (appendix 1). Celibacy - the decision not to engage in sexual relations with either biological sex. This may be enforced (ie: nobody available) or by choice (eg: religious order or priesthood) (appendix 2). Other - there are individuals who have sexual preferences not related to humans (4). This is a specific area of study, and little attention will be paid to this group of sexual preferences. The use of separate categories for sexual orientation gives the impression that individuals are clearly placed in one or another. Research suggests that sexual orientation may be more like a continuum, and the Kinsey Seven Point Scale reflects this fact (Stein 1999) (table 2).
An individual's sexual history will be rated as: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 X exclusively heterosexual with no homosexual predominately heterosexual, only incidental homosexual predominately heterosexual, but more than incidental homosexual equally heterosexual and homosexual predominately homosexual, but more than incidental heterosexual predominately homosexual, only incidental heterosexual exclusively homosexual with no heterosexual no social-sex contacts or relations
(After Kinsey et al 1948)
Table 2 - Kinsey Seven Point Scale Using their categories, Kinsey et al (1948) calculated the number of US males (aged 16-55 years) who had shown the behaviour for at least three years (table 3).
The Nature-Nurture Debate on Human Sexual Orientation; Kevin Brewer; Answers in Psychology No.3; ISBN: 978-1-904542-23-0
KINSEY CATEGORY 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 X
US MALES (16-55 yrs) (%) 85.0 1.4 4.9 1.5 0.8 0.7 5.0 0.7
Table 3 - Sexual orientation of US males in the 1940s using the Kinsey Scale. Technically, sexuality is different to sexual orientation. Sexuality refers to a set of ideas that includes sexual behaviour (eg: monogamy, polygamy), sexual orientation, sexual desire, and "sexual politics" (gender and society's views on sexual behaviour) (Mauthner 1996). Often sexual identity is more important to individuals from socially disadvantaged minority orientations. Those in the majority tend not to think about it that much (LeVay and Valente 2006). DEFINING SEXUAL ORIENTATION ACT FANTASY AROUSAL What defines an individual's sexual orientation? Is it the act of sexual relations or the attitude of preference? Stevens and Price (1996) defined homosexuality as "the desire to have sexual relations, either in fantasy or in fact, with a member of one's own sex". The inclusion of fantasy in any definition of sexual orientation is important because there are individuals who want a particular sexual act but cannot have it for whatever reason. To define sexual orientation by action only would open the question of what precise act defines sexual orientation? Is it only penetration of some kind or just touching? In fact, defining sexual orientation is not clear cut. Individuals may fantasise about one thing (ie: keep it private) and do something else (public behaviour). One way to define sexual orientation is by the individual's response to sexual stimuli, which is primarily the sex of the person to whom individuals are
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attracted (Zucker 2002). The use of interviews should assess this information. However, in cases where the individual cannot or does not want to report their sexual orientation, physiological measures are available - penile plethysmography or vaginal photoplethysmography. The stimuli of sexual arousal is not necessarily the same as sexual identity. For example, an individual may show homosexual sexual behaviour but not define themselves as "homosexual". Herdt (1981) reported cases of non-Western societies where adolescent homosexuality was viewed as part of the normal passage to adult heterosexuality for males. Thus who the individual has sexual intercourse with does not automatically define their sexual identity (or sexual orientation). The term "sexuality" itself can be confusing. Oakley (1972) saw it as "behaviour related to copulation" as well as the "whole area of personality related to sexual behaviour". NATURE AND NURTURE Two other terms are important to define here "nature" and "nurture". Nature This is the belief that behaviour is innate, and that individuals are born with the particular sexual orientation, in this case. Therefore, there is an evolutionary or biological explanation for the behaviour. Learning, the environment, and society have little to do with the cause of this behaviour. Nurture For this side of the debate, behaviour is learnt by individuals, and the environment and society are crucial in explaining sexual orientation. Sexual preference will be learnt by the individual in some way, and it is not something they are born with.
The Nature-Nurture Debate on Human Sexual Orientation; Kevin Brewer; Answers in Psychology No.3; ISBN: 978-1-904542-23-0
EVOLUTION SEX CHROMOSOMES GENES HORMONES IMPRINTING BRAIN DIFFERENCES The explanation for sexual orientation proposed by the nature side is based in the individual's biology and is fixed. There will be a usual pattern (ie: heterosexuality), and unusual patterns (eg: homosexuality) will have a different biological basis or intervening factor (figure 1).
Usual Pattern: Heterosexuality → → →
BIOLOGICAL SEX male female
SEXUAL ORIENTATION female male
Unusual Pattern: Homosexuality → →
BIOLOGICAL FACTOR → →
Unusual Pattern: Bisexuality → →
BIOLOGICAL FACTOR → →
Figure 1 - Nature explanation of sexual orientation.
EVOLUTION Evolution is based around two central concepts, proposed by Charles Darwin: natural selection and sexual selection. Natural selection is the idea of the survival of animals within a species with particular traits that give them an advantage compared to others. This behaviour is "adapted", and is well suited to the environment that the animal lives in. These "fit" animals will survive and leave more offspring. The best strategy for passing the genes into the next generation will vary between the male and female of the species. This is known as sexual selection. The male is able to produce many sperm, and so can theoretically have as many offspring as mates found. But the female is restricted, in most species, by giving birth to the offspring. Thus she has more invested in its survival. The ideas of evolution from Charles Darwin are based upon the survival of the individual. But Dawkins (1976), more recently, has suggested that it is the survival of the genes that matter. Research with other species that have short lifespans showed that evolution plays a part in sexual behaviour - eg: in the mating ritual of fruit flies. It is difficult to know whether specific characteristics related to sexual orientation occurred in early humans. At the most basic level, this would involve the sexual preference for the own species. From an evolutionary point of view, homosexuality is not productive and such individuals would die out without any offspring. So there would be an evolutionary dead end, and homosexual behaviour would cease. Homosexuality is a major puzzle for Evolutionary Psychology (Stevens and Price 1996). One possibility is that homosexual behaviour is a distortion of the evolutionary sexual strategies of males and females. What evolution predicts is that different sexual behaviour works for men and women in order to maximise the number of offspring (and this is what matters in evolutionary terms). Table 4 shows the different strategies used. Another possibility is that there may be a recessive gene (5) with other uses than homosexual sexual orientation. A "gay gene" remains in the gene pool because it enhances straight males (ie: slightly homosexual) as more attractive to females (ie:
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HETEROSEXUAL EVOLUTIONARY SEXUAL STRATEGY MEN As many partners as possible (ie: promiscuity)
Bell et al (1981) 25% of male homosexuals had sex with more than one thousand partners in their lifetime Loney (1974) female homosexuals had a median of three partners in their lifetime
Find the best partner and keep them (ie: selectivity)
Table 4 - Evolutionary sexual strategies and homosexual examples. evolutionary success) (McKnight 1997). Or the gene carried by women gives them an evolutionary advantage, but if passed to male offspring leads to homosexuality (D'Alessio 1996). Yet another possibility is that the same gene inherited by a male produces homosexual behaviour, but when inherited by a female makes them more attractive to men. If this is so, female relatives of gay men should have more children (ie: more evolutionary success) than female relatives of straight men. Camperio-Ciani et al (2004) claimed this to be the case. A number of other evolutionary theories are used to explain evolutionary advantages of a gene for homosexuality (Stevens and Price 1996): i) Kin selection hypothesis (Hamilton 1964) This is based on the theory that the individual genes matter more then the individual in evolutionary terms. An individual helping their kin have offspring will see their genes in future generations even if they do not themselves have any offspring (6). For example, childless lesbians helping their nephews and nieces. It could be that individuals with one copy of the gene are discouraged from seeking their own offspring, and so help siblings raise their children, whereas two copies produces homosexuality. ii) Heterozygous hypothesis A particular gene combined with other genes gives an evolutionary advantage in heterosexual individuals, but by itself the gene produces homosexuality.
iii) Dominance failure theory It is assumed that in any population there will be a normal distribution of dominant and submissive behaviour. Males unable to find females, rejected by females, or defeated by other males in competition become submissive (ie: turn to homosexuality). To be correct, this explanation proposes there will be more male than female homosexuals in a population. Human Reproductive Tasks Buss (1991) proposed the idea of "human reproductive tasks". Based upon evolutionary theory, these are the necessary behaviours for individuals to have offspring that survive, and take their genes into future generations. Table 5 lists the tasks as applied to men and possible evolutionary benefits of male homosexuality, and table 6 for women and lesbians.
HUMAN REPRODUCTIVE TASKS 1. To compete for mates EVOLUTIONARY BENEFITS OF MALE HOMOSEXUALS - Small number of homosexuals means less men competing for available females; important if society has more men than women - As above
2. To select mate of greatest reproductive value available 3. Conception 4. Retain sexual mate
- Less sperm competition - Presence of homosexual men means less men trying to steal mate away - In groups with dominant males who are the only ones mating, a homosexual male can distract the dominant male while the heterosexual male mates. In return the homosexual male receives food from the heterosexual male - Homosexual males helping heterosexuals raised offspring - As above - Homosexual males helping raise sibling's offspring
5. Reciprocal alliances (7)
6. Co-operative groups 7. Survival of offspring 8. Investment in other kin
Table 5 - Human reproductive tasks for men and possible evolutionary benefits of male homosexuality.
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HUMAN REPRODUCTIVE TASKS 1. To compete for mates
EVOLUTIONARY BENEFITS OF FEMALE HOMOSEXUALITY - Means less women available to mate: no evolutionary benefits of such a situation - Only benefit if very limited number of males and resources available in population of many females
2. To select mate of greatest reproductive value available 3. Conception 4. Retain sexual mate 5. Reciprocal alliances (7) 6. Co-operative groups 7. Survival of offspring 8. Investment in other kin
- Less women competing to steal mate away - As above for males where dominant female in group - As above for males - As above for males - As above for males
Table 6 - Human reproductive tasks for women and possible evolutionary benefits of female homosexuality. Both tables 5 and 6 are speculations of possible evolutionary benefits of homosexuality. Generally, there is less evolutionary benefit to having females who do not mate and produce offspring. Evaluation i) Many of the ideas are speculative, and depend on imagining the situation when human beings first evolved in the Pleistocen age (1.7 million to 100 000 years ago approximately) (Laland and Brown 2002). Furthermore, LeVay and Valente (2006) felt that "none of these theories is particularly persuasive". ii) There are limited evolutionary benefits to homosexuality as well as paraphilias. iii) Evolutionary explanations play down the role of culture and society. Not all sexual behaviours are universal which challenges the idea of evolution. iv) Human sexual behaviour is complex and different to non-human animals' behaviour. Thus studies with other species may not tell us much that is relevant to human sexual orientation.
SEX CHROMOSOMES An early idea, proposed by Richard Goldschmidt in 1916, was that homosexuals had the wrong sex chromosomes (Baird 2001). In humans, the presence of a Y sex chromosome (making XY) determines the individual to be biologically male, and XX is for biologically female. These distinctions are fixed for life. It is believed that the sex-determining region of the Y chromosome (SRY) produces testis development in the womb (Sinclair et al 1990), but it is not the only one (eg: weak histocompatibility antigens; H-Y antigens; Michael and Zumpe 1996). Some fish can undergo a sex reversal in certain environmental conditions. For example, if a male blueheaded wrasse is removed from a group, the dominant female undergoes a sex reversal in a few weeks, and can produce sperm (Warner 1984). A variation on the fixed pattern of biological sex occurs with inter-sex individuals. Chromosome differences include males with Klinefelter's syndrome (XXY) (Klinefelter et al 1942), and females with Turner's Syndrome (XO) (Bishop et al 1960). Men with the former condition tend to have a low sex drive (LeVay and Valente 2006). Hamer et al (1993), using DNA-linkage studies (8), implicated maternal transmission of the X chromosome in 114 families studied. This means that when the X chromosome comes from the mother, it causes homosexuality, but not if the X chromosome from the father. This is known as the "parent of origin effect". But a small number of men in this study did not have the specific gene. Also it is necessary to know if rhe same genes are present in heterosexual males, and in heterosexual and homosexual females (ie: no control group used) (Golombok 2000). Evaluation i) Limited applicability of animal studies to human behaviour. ii) Unusual case studies are rare, and the findings are not generalisable to the whole population. iii) In the unusual case studies, the chromosome difference relate to biological sex rather than to sexual orientation.
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iv) Early ideas of the wrong chromosome as the cause of homosexuality have been proved wrong. v) Problems with research of Hamer et al (see earlier). SPECIFIC GENE(S) ("Gay Gene") Historically, the idea of homosexuality as inherited appeared as early as the nineth century Islamic writer, Qusta ibn Luqa, long before genetics were known about (Duberman et al 1989). This explanation would be based in the idea of a gene or genes for sexual orientation (ie: heterosexuality or homosexuality is inherited). More often or not the debate is about gene(s) for homosexuality (known as the "gay gene"). A single gene altered in female fruit flies will make them attempt to copulate with other females (Demir and Dickson 2005). But it is not so straightforward in humans. Pillard and Weinrich (1986) mapped the biological family trees of fifty heterosexual and fifty homosexual men. The latter had four times as many homosexual or bisexual brothers than the heterosexual group. Though there were no differences for females, and the "results certainly do not exclude a role for potent environmental influences operating within a family" (Michael and Zumpe 1996). LeVay and Hamer (1994) reported twin studies showing concordance rates for male homosexuality of 57% for identical (MZ) twins and 24% for non-identical (DZ) twins, and for female homosexuality, 50% and 16% respectively. Bailey and Pillard (1991) found similar results in their twin studies (9): 52% (MZ twins) and 22% (DZ twins) for males, and 48% and 16% respectively for women (Bailey et al 1993). Further analysis by LeVay and Hamer suggested that genes on chromosome X at position q28 were involved between homosexual brothers (as 82% of such brothers shared the same gene). But later work found less amount of sharing (Byne 1994). There may be a genetic basis to paraphilias. In the Gaffney et al (1984) study, 18.5% of paraphiliacs had first-degree relatives (parents, siblings, or children) who were also paraphiliacs compared to 3% of a sample of
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adults with mental illness. However, this was not "unambiguous evidence" of inheritance (LeVay and Valente 2006). Furthermore, all types of paraphilia were classed together, but some are very different (eg: paedophilia and exhibtionism). Evaluation i) Studies have failed to replicate the existence of specific gene(s) among relatives of homosexuals, and genetic studies with fruit flies are not that helpful. For example, the gene sometimes called "GAY-1" actually contains several hundred genes. Twin and family studies, however, do show that sexual orientation is "moderately heritable" (LeVay and Valente 2006). ii) Heterosexuality is highly heritable, but why is there no research to find the gene(s) for this? iii) How do the genes actually influence sexual orientation? Research with fruit flies has found a gene to be linked to serotonin (neurotransmitter) production, but again how this affects sexual orientation is not clear (Thompson 1995). "Most genetic effects on behaviour operate indirectly through personality and other characteristics" (Golombok 2000 p49). One possibility is that the gene(s) tend the individual towards gender non-conformity in childhood, which then becomes adult homosexuality (Coolidge et al 2002). iv) Is it meaningful to talk about a "gay gene" when different concordance rates are found for men and women? Ussher (1997) felt that this was a continuation of the "age-old practice of positioning the male as the norm", and really research is about a "gay male gene". v) Genetic determinism - the assumption that behaviour is determined by genes. But genes code for physical aspects of the body (like brain cells), and how does this determine actual behaviour? vi) Kinsey et al (1948) proposed a number of conditions to be fulfilled in order to prove that homosexuality was inherited in humans: a) Strict definition of homosexuality; b) Comparison of siblings requires complete sexual histories;
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c) Details of sexual histories should come from the individuals themselves, otherwise it may be family gossip; d) Whether the homosexuality is exclusive or not; e) Exclusive heterosexuality should not be assumed even among married men (and those with girlfriends and female partners); f) Large samples needed for the studies; g) The incidence of homosexuality among siblings should be higher than among non-siblings; h) Any "hereditary mechanisms" must allow for individuals changing their behaviour during the lifetime. vii) Problems with twin and family studies including the fact that recruitment is often by adverts in periodicals likely to be read by homosexuals (Byne and Parsons 1993), and this may produce a sampling bias. Studies based on family members' recall of past relatives as homosexual or not is open to memory problems and honesty of responses. HORMONES This idea focuses upon specific hormones as the basis of sexual orientation, either in the womb or after birth. Pre-natal The key hormones appear to be androgens (steroids; eg: testosterone) in the womb - high levels produce attraction to females (usually in males, but in a few females), and low levels attraction to males (usually in females, but in a few males). This is the prenatal hormone theory (LeVay and Valente 2006). It also predicts other physical differences due to the prenatal hormones. One manifestation of this hormone difference is finger length. For women, usually the index finger (D2 - second digit) is as long as the ring finger (D4 - fourth finger), but in men, the index finger is shorter. This is known as the D2:D4 ratio, which is lower in men. Inconsistent findings have occurred as to whether lesbians have a lower D2:D4 ratio and gay men a higher one (LeVay and Valente 2006).
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Feldman and MacCullough (1971) highlighted the case of male foetuses where there is a lack of testosterone, leading to female sexual preference. For lesbians, there is too much testosterone in the womb producing a "masculinised XX". In animal studies injections of testosterone into pregnant guinea pigs produced females who attempted malelike sexual mounting of receptive females (Phoenix et al 1959). However, such studies with rhesus monkeys have found that the change is not permanent (eg: Phoenix et al 1983). There are cases where synthetic hormones are taken by pregnant mothers for medical reasons, for example, and these allow for natural studies. Table 7 lists two examples, but "results of different studies on different populations varied considerably" (Michael and Zumpe 1996).
STUDY Money & Ehrhardt (1972) Ehrhardt et al (1985; 1989) DETAILS 10 daughters of mothers given progestin (ie male hormone effects) daughters of mothers given diethylstilboestrol (DES) (ie: male hormone effects) BEHAVIOUR tomboyish when young, but "little abnormal sexual behaviour" as adults 75% "more or less completely heterosexual", but "less maternal" than controls
Table 7 - Studies of synthetic hormones during pregnancy. A naturally occurring hormonal change in the womb relates to maternal stress. Deliberately stressed maternal rats produced less testosterone at certain periods of their pregnancy of male offspring (Orth et al 1983). This has been proposed as an explanation for human male homosexuality combined with genetic factors (Dorner et al 1980). The applicability of these ideas to humans has been questioned (eg: Gooren et al 1990). Furthermore, gay men and women have not experienced more stress in the womb than straight ones (LeVay and Valente 2006). In the case of individuals born with hormonal problems (eg: girls with congenital adrenal virilising syndrome have high levels of male hormones in the womb), how do they develop in terms of sexual orientation? Though their behaviour can be "tomboyish", such individuals become "normal wives and mothers" (eg: Money
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and Ehrhardt 1972). One often quoted case to support the biological basis to sexual orientation is a recessive-gene condition that affects testosterone conversion into DHT (5 alphadihydrotestosterone) in the womb. A condition known as 5alpha reductase deficiency. The upshot is that individuals when born appear female, but at puberty develop into males. This condition is rare and is found in isolated villages in the south-west Dominican Republic (ImperatoMcGinley et al 1974) and among the Sambia in Papua New Guinea (Herdt and Davidson 1988). The children are reared as girls until puberty, but when changed to boys after puberty seemed to have no problems (Imperato-McGinley et al 1979). Rather than this supporting the nature side of the argument, because the condition is quite common in these communities, there is intense social and cultural pressure on these children, and it is that which influences development (Herdt and Davidson 1988). A variation on the prenatal hormone theory comes from Canadian researchers. Blanchard and Bogaert (2004) noted that gay men were more likely to have older brothers than heterosexual men. The researchers speculated that the more male foetuses, the greater likelihood of antibodies in the bloodstream of pregnant women which affected brain development (and subsequently led to homosexuality). Post-natal Intervention experiments with animals can produce sexual organ changes. For example, the transplant of a female hypothalamus to an adult male rat can produce hormonal patterns of a female cycle (Michael and Zumpe 1996). Testosterone is a key hormone post-natally in studies with rats. Females given injections after birth and in adulthood showed male sexual behaviour, and castrated males (ie: deprived of testosterone) showed female sexual behaviour (LeVay and Valente 2006). Where human males have been treated with oestrogen for hormone abnormalities, 50% showed no signs of male sexual behaviour (Harris and Levine 1965). Some homosexual women have higher levels of testosterone than the average (one-third of lesbians in Maeyer-Bahlburg 1979). But two-thirds had normal levels in this same study.
Evaluation i) The applicability of animal studies to humans is limited. ii) Unusual case studies based on small samples limit their generalisability. "The relatively rare instances of prenatal hormone excess or deficiency linked to homosexuality in humans may be special cases without much relevance to sexual development in general" (Masters et al 1995 p382). iii) Sexual orientation in humans is more complex than just originating from hormone differences. Humans are "less completely enslaved to hormones than rats" (LeVay and Valente 2006) because, for example, after castration, some men still maintain sexual interest. iv) Consistently "studies of sex hormones in adults have failed to detect a difference between heterosexual and homosexual men and women" (Golombok 2000 p50). In fact, in studies, like Ehrhardt et al, of excessive testosterone on female foetuses, most of women are still heterosexual as adults and only report a greater interest in lesbian relationships (Golombok 2000). Furthermore, differences in hormone levels do not necessarily lead to differences in actual sexual behaviour (eg: amount of sexual arousal) (LeVay and Valente 2006). v) No consistent findings for gay women behaving like men, and gay men like women (due to hormonal differences). vi) The prenatal hormone theory ignores hormonal changes after birth. "The human differs from most other mammals in that puberty is delayed for many years, and perhaps this provides a greater opportunity for learning and psychosocial factors to modify hormonal influences occurring during intra-uterine life" (Michael and Zumpe 1996 p464). vii) The idea of prenatal stress during pregnancy as determining homosexuality has been proved unfounded. INSTINCTIVE LEARNING OR IMPRINTING Imprinting is an instinctive process that occurs soon after birth (during a critical or sensitive
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period), and determines the attachment, species recognition, and sexual orientation of the young animal. Lorenz (1937) first described the process in birds (particularly geese). Experiments have disrupted this process. For example, male mallard ducks, raised from hatching with chickens only, as adults attempted to mate with the chickens. While male mallards raised only with male mallards will attempt to mate with them (Schultz 1965 quoted in Michael and Zumpe 1996). The idea of an instinctive process for determining sexual orientation with humans is difficult to prove, but early development can affect adult behaviour in mammals. In the series of studies by Harry Harlow which isolated rhesus monkeys, their lack of social contact led to inadequate adult sexual behaviour (eg: Harlow and Zimmerman 1959). However, this is evidence to support the nurture side of the argument, and the role of child-rearing. Money's (1980) idea of "love maps" could be included here. A critical period up to eight years old exists, he argued, during which the child establishes templates (love maps) for what will be sexually attractive to them as an adult. This idea could also be linked to psychodynamics. Glenn Wilson (1995) applied the idea of imprinting to explain fetishism. For example, the lack of the presence of a female before three years old meant imprinting for a boy on fetish objects which linked to the mother (eg: high heeled shoes). Imprinting could take place in the womb in some way. Wilson (1989) argued that sexual orientation is fixed at three to four months of pregnancy (and gender at 5-6 months gestation age), and so the effect of the environment on the foetus will be important at this time (eg: stressed mothers). Evaluation i) Limited evidence of imprinting generally in humans. ii) Imprinting assumes an inflexibility after the pattern is fixed. Human behaviour is much more flexible than other species, and can change (including sexual orientation). iii) Harlow's work did not find a difference in
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sexual orientation between isolated and non-isolated animals, only differences in adequacy of performing heterosexual sexual behaviour. STRUCTURES IN THE BRAIN It may be that there are neuroanatomical differences (ie: brain structures) that explain differences in sexual orientation. Animal, initially, (eg: Gorski et al 1978; rats) and then human studies have argued that there are minute differences in particular areas of the brain, particular the hypothalamus, that influence sexual behaviour. The hypothalamus is important because it controls many aspects of physiology related to biological motivation (eating, drinking, sex) through influencing the endocrine system (hormones). The studies with humans are based on post-mortem brains. Such studies found that parts of the hypothalamus are larger in men than women relative to the overall brain's size (Allen et al 1989). LeVay (1991) then found that one part (INAH3 region of medial pre-optic area) was smaller in homosexual compared to heterosexual men. He studied the brains of nineteen homosexual and sixteen heterosexual males, plus six women of unknown sexual orientation. The INAH3 area was twice as large in heterosexual men as women, and twothirds larger in straight men to homosexuals (ie: same size in gay men as in women). The average volume for straight men was 0.12 mm compared to 0.05 mm for gay men and 0.06 mm for straight women. Byne et al (2001) found similar findings (0.12, 0.09 and 0.07 mm respectively) in humans, and Roselli et al (2004) in sheep. But the brains of the homosexual sample in LeVay's study had come from individuals who died from AIDSrelated illnesses (Michael and Zumpe 1996). There are certain areas of the hypothalamus that have been found, in animals studies, to control aspects of sexual behaviour: pre-optic anterior nucleus: mounting behaviour in males; ventro-medial nucleus: female sex hormones; anterior nucleus: female receptivity to male mounting. It is hypothesized that these areas will be different in homosexual individuals (Stevens and Price 1996).
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In a rare case study, Anne Perkins (2001) reported a male homosexual sheep who had an amygdala similar to that of female sheep, and it did not respond to testosterone injections. Peter Fenwick (1995) reported differences in brainwave patterns in the temporal lobe of paraphiliacs (eg: fetishism). While brain damage has been found to trigger paraphilias, in some cases (eg: damage to the temporal lobe and late-onset homosexual paedophilia in two US men) (LeVay and Valente 2006). Evaluation i) Byne (1994) felt that:
Even if the size of certain brain structures does turn out to be correlated with sexual orientation, current understanding of the brain is inadequate to explain how such quantitative differences could generate qualitative differences in a psychological phenomenon as complex as sexual orientation.
LeVay (1993) himself was cautious: "To many people, finding a difference in brain structure between gay and straight men is equivalent to proving that gay men are 'born that way'. Time and again I have been described as someone who 'proved that homosexuality is genetic' or some such thing. I did not" (p122). ii) Small sample sizes to generalise to all homosexual men and women. iii) One basic theory of brain difference does not exist because different studies found different parts of the brain as varying between gay and straight individuals; eg: anterior commissure in one study or the suprachiamatic nucleus in the hypothalamus in another study (Ussher 1997). Other studies have hypothesized about the expected brain differences, but not actually found them. iv) The use of dead patients means that full details of their sexual behaviour has to be ascertained from other sources, and the individuals themselves cannot explain their behaviour. For example, were the gay men in LeVay's study exclusively homosexual?
EVALUATION OF THE NATURE SIDE i) Tatchell (2005) asked that if people are born with their sexual orientation, what about "people who in mid-life switch from happy heterosexuality to happy homosexuality (and vice versa)"? These are called "switchers". Furthermore, said Tatchell, nature theories find to hard to explain the Sambia (New Guinea) where all young men have homosexual relations with an older warrior as a rite of passage to manhood, and then, on achieving manhood, marry a local woman. Spitzer (2003) claimed, from telephone interviews, that, out of two hundred one-time homosexuals, 68% of men and 44% of women now had "good heterosexual functioning". But LeVay and Valente (2006) questioned whether individuals can really change their sexual orientation. Individuals do appear to switch, but is it really a "conversion" or more of a "coming out"? ii) There are questions about how relevant animals studies of sexual behaviour are to understanding human behaviour, particularly rats (Byne 1994). iii) Finding a biological basis has the implication that individuals are "born that way" and thus do not choose such behaviour. In fact, in such a situation the individual cannot be responsible for their behaviour. This is very important if the sexual preference is for nonconsensual/illegal behaviour (eg: paedophilia). Berline (1988) raised this difficult issue: "Men who are sexually attracted to children are not this way because they decided they wanted to be so. Rather, in growing up they discovered this was the nature of their sexual orientation" (p188). Furthermore, Berline said: "it seems difficult to see how a person could be considered blameworthy.." (p190). iv) Use of scientific methods usually to study behaviour. However, Ellis and Mitchell (2000) argued that much of the research on biological factors in sexual orientation has been "remarkably flawed", and that "we still have no good evidence". Furthermore, where the evidence is clear, there are no biological differences between heterosexual and homosexual individuals. v) This approach can be deterministic and reductionist. All behaviour is determined by biology in some way, and reduced to that level of understanding. In other words, any meaning to the individual is removed or
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ignored. Birke (1994) felt that for those arguing for biological determinism, sex "seems to mean little more than penis-into-vagina". Each of the theories proposed under the nature side of the argument have different forms of determinism (table 8).
THEORY Nature side Evolution Sex Chromosomes TYPE OF DETERMINISM Biological or physiological determinism Sexual behaviour determined by principles of evolution (evolutionary determinism) Presence of absence of certain chromosomes determine behaviour (chromosomal determinism) Genetic determinism: sexual behaviour determined by specific gene(s) Levels of hormones on body determine sexual behaviour (hormonal determinism) Early imprint determines later behaviour Structures of brain determine behaviour
Genes Hormones Imprinting Neuroanatomy
Table 8 - Types of determinism on nature side. vi) There are different types of homosexuality, and it may be that a biological basis on exists for some of them. vii) Homosexual behaviour has been observed in over four hundred and fifty species of birds and mammals including male orang-utans, male walruses, ferrets, hamsters, rodents, and primates (eg: chimpanzees) (Baird 2001). Killer whales were observed to devote one-tenth of the summer months to homosexual behaviour (MacKay 2000). There is a debate as to whether this behaviour in animals is the same as homosexuality in humans. Tim Clutton-Brock (2001) tended to see it as "exuberant sexual behaviour" and not the same as being gay.
GENDER NON-CONFORMITY LEARNING FAMILY DYNAMICS PSYCHODYNAMICS SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF SEXUAL IDENTITY The nurture side sees sexual orientation as not fixed at birth but learnt in some way. This means that there is not a set pattern for heterosexuality as argued by the nature side (figure 2). It also allows for an individual to change at any time in their life.
Figure 2 - Nurture explanation of sexual orientation. GENDER ATYPICAL AND NON-CONFORMING BEHAVIOUR The nineteenth century belief about homosexuality was "gender inversion"; ie: homosexual men were like women, and homosexual women were like men. This was adapted in the early twentieth century to distinguish differences within the populations of gay men and women. For example, gay female couples needed "butch" lesbians (who were like men), and "femmes" (who were like women). The modern gay community in the West is more complex that that. Bell et al (1981) (10) believed that gender nonconformity in childhood was the only predictor of adult homosexuality. They studied one thousand homosexual and five hundred straight men and women in San Francisco. Of the gay men, 63% reported disliking "boys' games" as a child compared to 10% of straight men, while 48% enjoyed "girls' games" compared to 11% of heterosexual men. Saghir and Robbins (1973) noted that 65% of male homosexuals, they studied, were "effeminate" as child.
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Studies have found gender atypical behaviour among gay men and women in a number of different areas (table 9).
GAY MEN - less aggressive - do less well on malefavoured cognitive tests eg: mental rotation - do better on femalefavoured tests eg: verbal fluency - describe themselves as less masculine GAY WOMEN - do better on male-favoured cognitive tests - describe themselves as less feminine - more interest in visual sexual stimuli
Table 9 - Gender atypical behaviour by gay men and women. There is evidence that adult homosexuals recall more cross-gender behaviour in childhood than heterosexual adults (Bailey and Zucker 1995). Green (1987), for example, studied sixty-six "feminine boys" (with Gender Identity Disorder diagnosis) and 56 control boys at seven years old, and 44 and 30 of them respectively at 18 years old. Using both fantasy and behavioural measures of sexual orientation, Green found that 75-80% of the "feminine boys" were homosexual or bisexual at 18 years old compared to 0-4% of the control group. The persistence of feminine behaviours throughout the whole of childhood were key. Coolidge et al (2002) argued that gender nonconformity may have a genetic basis. The link between cross-gender behaviour and later homosexuality has been used to support a biological explanation for both behaviours; eg: genetic females with CAH (congenital adrenal hyperplasia) from excessive prenatal exposure to androgens (Zucker et al 1996). Gender non-conformity can be linked to early experiences. For example, a lack of close relations with the father or other boys for "feminine boys" leads to "male affect starvation" (Green 1987). Thus the sexual attraction to males is to overcome this starvation. While Bem (1996) argued that children's "temperaments" lead to an attraction for the "exotic". For heterosexual individuals, this is the other sex. But for "feminine boys" or "masculine girls", the "exotic" is the same sex. The idea of "temperaments" is disputed by some (eg: Ruble and Martin 1998).
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Evaluation i) There are many homosexual men and women who show appropriate gender roles for their society; eg: "lipstick lesbians" (lesbians who fulfil the stereotype of heterosexual female attractiveness). Lesbians and gay men are a mixed bunch: "Some are entirely conventional in their gender characteristics, some are trifle nonconformists, and some are flagrant gender rebels. Straight people are not always so 'straight-acting', either" (LeVay and Valente 2006 p228). Studies that focus upon mean differences between homosexual and heterosexual populations ignore the diversity within each population. ii) Terms like "effeminate" are value-laden, and only perpetuate the idea of masculinity as "tough" and femininity as "weak", and the continued "pathologising of homosexuality" (Brookey 2004). iii) Many studies on gender non-conformity used clinical populations (eg: Green 1987); ie: individuals who are receiving treatment, and may not be typical of the general population (Golombok 2000). Also these studies are based on interviews and the recall of childhood behaviour by adults. There is a risk of remembering the past based on how the individual feels now. iv) The connection between childhood gender nonconformity and adult homosexuality may be strong, but "it is not strong enough that one can predict a child's future sexual orientation with confidence" (LeVay and Valente 2006 p229). LEARNING Associative Learning This is learning based upon the principles of conditioning (as proposed by the Behaviourists). Classical conditioning is where two events become associated together and is based on the work of Ivan Pavlov. Operant conditioning comes from the work of B.F. Skinner and concentrates on learning based on the reward and punishment of past behaviour (known as stimulus-response). The "conditioning hypothesis" (McGuire et al 1965) (ie: learning by classical and operant conditioning) has been used to explain paraphilias. The sexual pleasure associated with masturbation in the teenage years becomes
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linked to an object in fetishism. It can explain why paraphilias are more often male behaviours because boys masturbate more as teenagers than girls. Another example is of a woman's ring fetish which was linked to her aunt in childhood, and confirmed by masturbation in adolescence (Gene Abel 1995). Experiments on classical conditioning have paired pictures of naked women for heterosexual men with pictures of boots, and, in time, the men showed physiological sexual arousal to the pictures of boots (Rachman 1966). However, other studies have not supported this simple association. Negative Experiences It may be that negative experiences cause individuals to develop a certain sexual orientation. Recent US survey data found that homosexual and bisexual individuals reported more cases of being touched sexually by an adult during childhood (7.5% of men and 3% of women) (LeVay and Valente 2006). But the numbers are small compared to those homosexual and bisexual individuals who were not touched. One explanation often proposed for lesbians is unpleasant heterosexual experiences (even sexual violence). Some feminists have argued that coercive sex is a normal part of heterosexuality. Gavey (1992) interviewed women about their sex lives, and in particular coerced experiences of heterosexual intercourse. One interviewee reported being accused of not caring if she did have sex when her partner wanted, and a consequent argument developed. While another interviewee admitted giving in to his demands for sex, just for "a few hours rest and peace and quiet". Gavey (1996) noted that:
(S)everal women reported experiences which seemed to me like clear cases of rape or sexual aggression, but which they were reluctant to label as such thus implicitly accepting them to be within the realm of ordinary heterosexual practice.
However, most women remain heterosexual (which is a point of issue for radical feminists). Cognitive Learning
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Gagnon and Simon (1973) saw the importance of "scripts", acquired from society, to help in attributing meaning to sexual behaviour. So, for example, teenage sexual exploration is understood using the "sexual scripts" to help individual decide whether they are gay, straight or whatever. Gagnon and Simon argued that individuals do not learn to become aroused to a particular object, but it is the "script" surrounding the object. For example, rather than learning to be aroused by shoes (object), the individual is aroused by the "sexual script" of the person wearing the shoes and taking them off in the context of sexual behaviour. Evaluation i) Ignores biological predispositions and assumes that all sexual behaviour is learnt from the beginning. ii) It may be a better explanation of learning the correct sexual behaviour rather than learning sexual orientation. Marshall (1971) reported the case of the inhabitants of Mangaia (Cook Islands, South Pacific) where children learn about sex from watching adults (as many families sleep in a big room), and from direct tuition at puberty from older men and women on sexual techniques. While in the West, Bancroft (1989) summarised the traditional medical view that "the sexuality of women may be more susceptible to the effects of social learning than that of men". iii) Classical conditioning is too simplistic to explain the complexity of all human sexual behaviour. iv) Behaviourism treats the individual in a mechanistic way as a product of learning from past rewards and punishments. It is also reductionist. FAMILY DYNAMICS A number of popular explanations are linked to the family including weak or absent father, emotionally demanding mother, only child and parental pampering, or poor relationship with the mother for lesbians. The experience of dysfunctional relations with parents, including abuse, has been proposed to explain paraphiliac behaviour (William Marshall 1995). Bieber et al (1962), psychoanalysts, studied the family background of 106 homosexual and 100 heterosexual
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men seen for analysis. The former were more likely to have overprotective, domineering mothers, and weak or passive fathers. Bieber et al proposed that fear of heterosexual interactions were created by this family pattern, which in turn produced homosexuality. Wolff (1971) looked for similar family problems among 100 lesbians and 100 heterosexual women. The former had more rejecting mothers, and distant or absent fathers. Wolff believed that a lack of maternal love led to seeking love from other women. Siegelman (1978) found that homosexual men reported more disturbed relationships with their parents than heterosexual men. But when neuroticism was controlled for, the differences disappeared. Other studies have found complete contradictions (eg: Bell et al 1981). The family dynamics or make up of the family (eg: single parent) could influence the gender nonconformity of the child, and possible adult homosexuality. There is a situation of two parent households that exists, but both parents are of the same-sex: gay and lesbian households. The child(ren) here may be adopted or biologically related to the adult(s). Research is limited because there are not that many same-sex parent households, and the majority tend to be female. Most of the interest is with the development of sexual identity in the children in same-sex households. Sexual identity is studied in a number of ways including, for example, knowledge of sexual stereotypes, and adoption of sex roles through choice of toys. Some studies with older children include sexual orientation. Green (1978) (and Green et al 1986) studied 37 individuals (eighteen male and nineteen female) aged 3-20 years raised by lesbian or trans-sexual parents. All, except possibly one individual, developed heterosexual preferences and conformed to traditional gender roles. There was no comparison group of heterosexual parents. In a still-running longitudinal study, Golombok et al (1983) used a comparison group of heterosexual single parents. This research compared 38 children (aged 5-17 years) in such situations with 37 raised in lesbian households (average age nine-years-old). There were no differences in gender identity, sexual preference, emotional development, or behaviour between the two groups. Golombok et al (1983) concluded that "rearing in a lesbian household per se did not lead to atypical
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psychosexual development or constitute a psychiatric risk factor" (p565). This study was followed-up by Golombok and Tasker (1996) when the individuals were 23 years old. It was possible to find twenty-five of those from lesbian households and 21 from the control group. The most important finding related to sexual orientation - only two of those in the lesbian household group classed themselves as gay (and they were both women). However, individuals in this group admitted having thought about homosexual relationships before the rejecting the idea more than the control group. Four of the former group did try homosexual relationships in their adolescence. Being raised in a lesbian household had encouraged the individuals to be open-minded about their sexual orientation, which is not bad in a society where discrimination against homosexuality is still common (Kitzinger 1999). There is more research on children raised by two women than by two men. However, Bailey et al (1995) did look at the sexual orientation of adult sons of gay fathers. This study did not concentrate on gay households, only if the father was gay. From adverts, fifty-five gay or bisexual men volunteered for the study. Their sons were contacted and interviewed as well. Ninety-one percent of the sons were classed as heterosexual. Of the remainder, they were either classed as homosexual, bisexual, or the sexual orientation was unclear. The length of time the boys had lived with their fathers was not a factor in sexual orientation. Evaluation i) The comparison of one parent with two is crude because of other family contacts, particularly other males (Schaffer 1998). For example, in the Golombak et al study, many of the children saw the fathers often. Furthermore, children in lesbian or gay households may have spent some time in heterosexual families. ii) The studies are based upon volunteers (eg: Bailey et al placed adverts in gay publications), and the samples are small. Volunteers are not necessarily typical of the general population (Brewer 2005). iii) There are problems with the measurement of behaviours, like sexual identity in children. Measurements include asking children about their preferred toys and games, preferred sex of playmates, and future job aspirations.
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Green (1978) measured the gender behaviour using a projective test called the "Draw-A-Person Test" (DAP) (Machover 1949). The child is asked to draw a person, then a person of the opposite sex. The proportion of the body parts are taken as signs of psychological problems. iv) Early studies on family dynamics were based on clinical populations (eg: those in psychoanalysis) (Golombok 2000). These individuals may not be typical of the whole population. PSYCHODYNAMICS Trying to explain the origins of sexual orientation, particularly homosexuality, exists in a context, and, in this case, that homosexuality was perceived as "psychopathic" in psychoanalysis. Freud (1911), for example, talked about the repression of homosexual impulses and the link to paranoid delusions. Much of the basis of these ideas comes from Freud's (1905) work on the Oedipal complex in psychosexual development at three to five years old. Failure of this process, particularly for boys, leads to inappropriate gender development, which, to Freud, meant also homosexuality. It is the identification with the aggressor (ie: the father as rival for the mother) which is key in the whole process. Blockages could occur at different phases of the boy's development, and this lead to homosexuality during the anal phase (two years old) leading to preference to receive anal intercourse, as well as during the Oedipal phase. Limentani (1996) distinguished three clinical types of homosexuality: i) Group I - "Attachment to members of the same sex is linked with the flight from the opposite sex, which is perceived as being dangerous, threatening and domineering" (p218). In other words, a fear or hatred of women. From a psychoanalytic point of view, the individual may have experienced early separation from the mother; ii) Group II - Again in terms of psychoanalysis, "homosexuality is employed as a massive defence mechanism, aimed at warding off overwhelming separation and psychotic anxieties, a dread of mutilation and even disintegration" (p219);
iii) Group III - Bisexuality. Limentari was writing in a psychoanalytic tradition, and implicit in all the terminology is homosexuality as a problem, and an individual's problem not caused by the reactions of society. But, then again, psychoanalysis sees most behaviour as problematic. Psychoanalysis tends to focus upon male homosexuality and say little about women, generally, and lesbianism. However, what Freud said about female sexual development can be summarised as: "the little girl's first desire is for her mother; she then replaces this with the desire for a penis, then for a child from her father, finally for a male child of her own" (McDougall 1996 p231). For this explanation, lesbianism is due to fixation in the first stage - desire for the mother. Psychoanalytic writings are very complex including much jargon, like "homosexual libido", but it is not possible to be homosexual without it being a weakness or a failure in "normal development" (McDougall 1996). So if this is the view taken, it is not surprising that therapy is recommended to rectify homosexuality. For example, Socarides (1996) proudly told of the success of psychoanalysis with forty-five "overt homosexuals", "nearly 50% developed full heterosexual functioning and were able to develop love feelings for their heterosexual partners" (p273). But taking such a stance, it allows for heterosexuality, in any form or excess, to be seen as "normal" or acceptable. Evaluation i) Many psychoanalytic concepts are hypothetical (eg: Oedipal complex). ii) Over-emphasis on male experiences. iii) Assumes that heterosexuality is the norm and anything else is pathological. There is a devaluing of sexual differences by psychoanalysts - eg: nonheterosexual activities are only "substitutes for intercourse" (Storr 1964). This negative attitude towards homosexuality has caused individuals to undergo therapy to change to heterosexuality. iv) Parents can end up feeling responsible for their child's homosexuality.
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v) Too much emphasise on the first few years of life as determining later sexual behaviour. vi) On the plus side, Freud made the distinction between "sexual object" and "sexual aim" as part of sexual desire, and psychosexual development for children. However, these terms are not always clear (Ellis and Mitchell 2000). SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF SEXUAL IDENTITY This approach sees sexual orientation as contained within sexual identity, which like all aspects of social identity is socially constructed. "Sexual identity and sexual desire is not fixed and unchanging. We might create boundaries and identities for ourselves to contain what might otherwise threaten to engulf or dissolve into formlessness" (Elizabeth Wilson quoted in Caplan 1987). Most definitely, sexual identity and orientation are not fixed at birth. They are labels used by society to give meaning to behaviour. Social constructionism challenges the essentialism argument. Here this means the idea that sexual orientation is an inner state or essence of the individual, which they can repress, discover, deny or acknowledge (Kitzinger 1999). The patterns of meanings used are discourses:
People develop and "express" their identity through the use of verbal, non-verbal, and other symbolic means of communication, such as art. Then, when they feel as if they are genuinely "expressing" something inside themselves, they pick up and reproduce certain discourses about the nature of the self, and they find it difficult to step back and question where those ways of describing the world may come from and what interests they may serve (Parker 1997 p285).
The evidence to support this argument comes from looking at differences in the understanding of sexual orientation. What this means is that sexual orientation is not clear-cut: there are "many permutations in time and place of lesbianism and homosexuality - especially the blurred line between friendship and lesbianism, between same-sex acts and defining oneself or others as gay , in other words sexual identity" (Mauthner 1996 p143).
Historical differences There are examples from history of different views than held in Western society today towards homosexuality, for example. Male homosexuality in Ancient Greece was seen as normal, partly because of the low position of women in society. While free male citizens in Ancient Rome had choices between "irrumo" (offering penis for sucking), "futuo" (female penetration), or "pedico" (male penetration) (Duberman et al 1989). What mattered more was the status of the individual rather than their gender. Looking at examples from history like this has been called "queer history". There are also historical differences in the nature of relationships themselves; ie: what is acceptable behaviour. Carrol Smith-Rosenberg (1975) analysed the letters and diaries of families in America between 1760s-1880s. One strong theme that came out of correspondence between two married women (Sarah Butler Wister and Jeannie Field Musgrove) was the level of intimacy. Friends since teenage years, their letters expressed feelings that would be viewed differently today:
Sarah: "I can give you no idea how desperately I shall want you.." Jeannie: "How I love you and how happy I have been. You are the joy of my life.. I want you to tell me in your next letter, to assure me that I am your dearest.."
It is important to emphasise that these are the letters of two friends, and there was no evidence of homosexuality. What it does show is the differences in social norms about friendships, particularly here, with the expression of feelings (Coates 1996). Cross-cultural differences Cultures around the world view sexual orientation differently to the West. For example, there are societies with an "unspoken cultural acceptance" of bisexuality, where marriage is compulsory and homosexuality illegal: male migrant workers from Mozambique in South Africa have a wife at home and a boyfriend where they work, or, in Peru, where men see home their female fiancée at the end of the evening and then visit a male prostitute (Baird 2001). Evans-Pritchard (1971) told of a behaviour in Azande
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society in pre-colonial Africa called the "boy-wife custom". Rich men had many wives, which left a shortage of women for the other men. These men "married" boys aged 12-20 years old, who became "housewives". When the boy became an adult, he left this "marriage" and went to find a female wife (if he was wealthy enough). Meanwhile, women in large polygynous households may have sex together if the husband rarely had intercourse with them. In a classic anthropological study of seventy-eight "primitive" societies, forty-nine saw male homosexuality as positive, and seventeen for female homosexuality (Ford and Beach 1952). More recently, of seventy societies studied, homosexual was found to be common (accepted) in 41% (Broude and Green 1980). Kinsey et al (1953) reported only one society (Mohave American Indians) with records of exclusive female homosexuality. "Doing" not "being" Many individuals engage in homosexual behaviour without identifying themselves as "homosexual" or "gay"; ie: doing the behaviour without being (identity). For example, in Latin America, two men having anal intercourse: the inserting partner is not seen as gay, but the receptive is "marecon" (not a "real man") (Seabrook 2000). A study in 1998 (Seabrook 1999) in a Delhi park in India of men-who-have-sex-with-men found that few said they were "gay", but gave reasons like no women available, male prostitutes available, or the belief that it was safer for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases (STD) (Baird 2001). There is the example of "jail sex". This is heterosexual men using other prisoners, and "they would never think of themselves as homosexual", said one prisoner interviewed by Bruce Jones in 1995 for the BBC Radio 5 programme "Banged Up" (Brewer 2000). Chou Wah-shen (2000; reported in Drucker 2000) interviewed two hundred gay men and women in China. They tended to use the word "tongzhi" (comrade) of themselves rather than "tongxinglina" (homosexual). This may be due to official attitudes about homosexuality (punishable with imprisonment under "hooliganism" laws), or the fluid conception of Chinese sexuality that "treats homosexuality as an option that most people can experience, rather than as something restricted to a sexual minority having fixed, inherent traits" (Baird
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2001 p17). Concerning women having sex with other women, in Surinam the term "mati" is used, and it is not seen as lesbianism. These women may also have sex with men (Blackwood and Wieringa 1999). Labels and categories For Ussher (1997), "'sex' is not an immutable, biological, given fact", but behaviour clearly socially defined. For example, in Western society, vaginal intercourse is seen as sex, but what about masturbation, nocturnal emissions, or the rubbing together of naked bodies, she asked? Furthermore, Ussher said:
In Anglo-American Western cultures science and law are two of the major social institutions that influence the process, shaping what we see as "sex", how we learn to desire, how we experience our sexual selves and how we learn to repress or conceal the sexuality that is currently forbidden. As a consequence, this shapes how we experience ourselves as "women" or "men" (p258).
The term "homosexuality" was first used by Karoly Maria Kertbeny (German-Hungarian) in the mid-19th century, and by John Addington Symonds in English in 1891 as "homosexual instinct" (Baird 2001). Homosexuality is not a single category of behaviour, and Werner (1995) distinguished four types: a) Adolescent type - common in adolescence and disappears later; eg: at boarding schools; b) Age-grade type - mentor/pupil; eg: Ancient Greece; c) Transvestite type - homosexual male has sex usually with a male heterosexual; whether the individual is active or passive is important; eg: South America; d) Gay type - communities of homosexuals; eg: Northern Europe. The terms "homosexual", "gay" and "lesbian" carry specific social meanings. This has led researchers to prefer terms like "men-who-have-sex-with-men" (MSM) and
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"women-who-have-sex-with-women" (WSW) in areas of study like HIV, condom use, and sexual behaviour. Normality/Abnormality Any understanding of sexual orientation and sexual identity is in a context of what a society or culture sees as normal and abnormal, and how these are defined. For example, the "so-called natural male sex drive upholds heterosexuality as the norm" and "relegates other forms of sexuality to the deviant and the abnormal" (Mauthner 1996 p143). While Ussher (1997) noted that at the International Academy of Sexual Research conference in 1995, there were nine papers on the underlying cause of homosexuality, but none on the underlying cause of heterosexuality ("presumed to be the natural state"). Compulsory Heterosexuality Rich (1984) has argued that this is "compulsory heterosexuality". This is the dominant form of sexuality in Western societies forced upon individuals, especially women. It is not just about being heterosexual, but the specific assumptions for men and women within that (eg: "real men"; "loose women"). What is seen as "natural" sexual behaviour in this society - male initiation and female receptiveness - is not borne out in other cultures. For example, Mead (1935) observed very different behaviour among the Arapesh of south-east Asia:
(T)he Arapesh further contravene our traditional idea of men as spontaneously sexual creatures, and women as innocent of desire, until wakened, by denying spontaneous sexuality to both sexes.. Both men and women are conceived as merely capable of response to a situation..(and) regarded as helpless in the face of seduction.
While Davenport (1965) reported that in South West Pacific society, intercourse is assumed to be equally pleasurable for both sexes (and deprivation equally harmful). Malinowski (1932) noted the Kwoma and Mataco societies where women exclusively take the sexual initiative. The frequency of sexual intercourse is also cultureThe Nature-Nurture Debate on Human Sexual Orientation; Kevin Brewer; Answers in Psychology No.3; ISBN: 978-1-904542-23-0 2006 38
based. Heider (1976) studied the Dani society in southeast Asia who rarely have intercourse (nor masturbate), and show few signs of concern or frustration. Rich would also see the prejudice and discrimination against homosexuals and homosexuality as a means of forcing individuals into heterosexuality, particularly here men. Kimmel (1997) argued that the predominance of prejudice and discrimination against LGBT individuals was due to the fact that traditional masculinity is intrinsically homophobic: "As adolescents, we learn that our peers are a kind of gender police, constantly threatening to unmask us as feminine, as sissies.." (p234), and violence is often the strongest indicator of "being a man". Thus picking on others (verbal or physical violence) allows the perpetrator to establish that they are "safe" (masculine) as opposed to the victim who is not. Individuals, when considering their first sexual experiences, are faced at school or college with prejudice and discrimination. Human Rights Watch (2001) compiled a report about the experiences of being a lesbian, gay or transgender student in US middle and high schools. One study quoted in the report recorded that anti-gay comments were made on average every seven minutes in Iowa public schools. Teachers only intervened in three percent of cases, and usually when "straight students are targets of homophobic harassment". "Unfortunately, when school officials respond only after a straight student is 'mistakenly' targeted, they reinforce the notion that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students are not worthy of protection" (Human Rights Watch 2001 p31). a) Verbal and non-physical harassment Most of the 140 US pupils and students interviewed by Human Rights Watch in 2000 reported verbal abuse. The most common term used was "fag" or "faggot". "Chance M" felt that those terms were not playing around: "A few times, I'm sure that's true. But a lot of times it's pure hate" (Human Rights Watch 2001 p35). Mallon (1998) interviewed fifty-four gay and lesbian teenagers, and found that verbal abuse was experienced as hurtful as physical abuse because of the effect upon self-esteem. "Miguel S" told of a whispering campaign, in his junior high school, that he had AIDS, while "Dylan N" reported fake love letters to other boys in his name. In one Texas school, graffiti saying "all gays must die"
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appeared (Human Rights Watch 2001). b) Sexual harassment The most common form of sexual harassment reported was being touched in an unwelcome way. Two young lesbians said: "People would grab my breast area", and "They'd come up and grab my waist, put their arm around me". Reports showed that lesbian and bisexual teenagers received more sexual harassment than other groups at high school (Human Rights Watch 2001). The response towards homosexuality varies from culture to culture as shown by this view of homosexuality from Ireland: "If you're Irish and gay, your parents must be English" (Berriss 1996). This is almost a suggestion that homosexuality is unpatriotic, or at least "unIrish". Social Control Feminists have argued that men have the power to define what is normal. Kitzinger and Coyle (1995) pointed out that: "Lesbian and gay couples are struggling to build and to maintain relationships in the context of a society that often denies their existence, condemns their sexuality, penalises their partnership and derides their love for each other" (p67). The acts which are classed as normal sexual behaviour have clear boundaries of what is acceptable or not (eg: consensual sado-masochism; Hopton and Hopton 2001). In terms of assessing the historical construction of sexuality, Foucault (1979) took a different view to many traditional histories. For many, the Victorian period was one of silence about sexuality, but, for Foucault, it was the opposite. It was a period of cataloguing and categorising of individual acts, and the establishing of sexualities as part of the person rather than specific acts. For example, a person is a homosexual rather than performing homosexual acts. Kitzinger (1994) pointed out that:
(H)omosexual activity is translated into homosexual (or lesbian, gay etc) identity. Heterosexual activity per se is generally seen as having no particular implications for identity (p195).
Most importantly, "normal" and "abnormal" sexuality were clearly laid out. Jeffreys (1985) quotes the example of passionate middle class female friendships in the 18th and 19th centuries, which were accepted at that time as "useful because they trained women in the ways of love in preparation for marriage". In the late 19th century with the construction of the category "lesbian", these friendships became seen as unacceptable. Another example of the definition of normal and abnormal sexuality comes from the psychiatric categories for mental illness. DSM-II (APA 1968) included homosexuality as a sexual deviation. This was removed in 1973, and replaced by the category "ego-dystonic homosexuality" (EDH) - someone who finds their homosexuality anxiety-producing and prefers to be heterosexual. DSM-IIIR (APA 1987) dropped EDH, while the current term is "sexual disorder not otherwise specified" (DSMIV; APA 1994). This is a category for "persistent and marked distress about one's sexual orientation". Kutchins and Kirk (1997) believed that "psychiatrists have seemingly agreed not to call their clients homosexual, although they have indirect ways of identifying homosexuality" (p91). While in East Bay, Melanesia, male homosexuality is positively encouraged during adolescence (Humphreys 1997). The acceptability and normality of behaviour is greatly influenced by the legal position. For example, homosexuality is illegal in over seventy countries of the world, and punishable by death in seven (Baird 2001). Other laws enforce discrimination. In the mid-1980s, the Queensland state government in Australia passed a law making it illegal to serve alcohol to "perverts and deviants" (which included homosexuals). While only in 1997 did the Tasmanian state government, in another part of Australia, decriminalise homosexual sexual practices (Hogg and Vaughan 2002). Women and Sexuality
Despite media which often seem saturated with sexual imagery, sex as a serious topic of conversation is still taboo in many contexts. This is exacerbated by powerful discourses which construct only certain expressions of sexual desire and behaviour as normal and acceptable (Marsh 1996 p309).
This is usually heterosexuality, and particularly
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focused on intercourse.
Modern culture has assumed an intimate connection between the fact of being biologically male or female.. and the correct form of erotic behaviour (usually genital intercourse between men and women) (Weeks 1986 p13).
Richardson (1992) ironically points out that many sexually active lesbians are technically virgin because they have never had penetrative intercourse. Within feminist writings, the issue of lesbianism has figured more and more. Often as much as a political statement as a sexual preference.
For a woman to be a lesbian in a male-supremacist, capitalist, misogynist, racist, homophobic, imperialist culture, such as that of North America, is an act of resistance.. No matter how a woman lives out her lesbianism - in the closet, in the state legislature, in the bedroom - she has rebelled against becoming the slave master's concubine, viz. the male-dependent female, the female heterosexual. This rebellion is dangerous business in patriarchy (Clarke 1981).
While Wittig (1992) took the argument further: "'woman' has meaning only in heterosexual systems of thought and heterosexual economic systems. Lesbians are not women". Brown (1993) argued for heterosexual celibacy as a woman: "while I find men disgusting I also desire them.. I live a lonely life but I prefer this to the nonsense of a heterosexual existence and I have no desire to be a lesbian" (p91). The existence of norms of sexual behaviour place great pressure upon individuals who are different. Cronon (2006) interviewed twenty-two self-identified lesbian women aged 45-68 in the UK and the US (half face-to-face, and the others by email). One key theme that emerged was "getting married at a younger age because of social pressures". Eleven of the women were divorced or separated, and ten of these had children. Lesley said: "I was trying to 'do what was right' by society's standards, even if they weren't right for me" (p114).
Evaluation i) Ignores any biological basis to sexual orientation. ii) Some radical feminists, like Rich, are arguing for all women to become lesbian, whether in terms of sexual behaviour or as a political stance ("political lesbianism"). iii) Anti-essentialist. Social constructionism argues that there are no inner states or essences, and all behaviour is socially constructed from the discourses available. iv) The proportion of individuals in are homosexual seems to be similar around (Whitam 1983). The social construction of suggest that rates of behaviour will vary culture. This is evidence to support the the argument. EVALUATION OF THE NURTURE SIDE i) Plays down any biological basis to sexual orientation. ii) It has the strength of showing the diversity of sexual behaviour, and that sexual orientation is not fixed as the same around the world. iii) Limited use of scientific methods in studying sexual orientation. a society who the world behaviour would from culture to nature side of
Ussher (1997) argued that the nature-nurture debate about sexual orientation is "nothing but a red herring":
For what it assumes is that there is this single distinction between heterosexuality and homosexuality, that gay men or lesbians are a homogeneous group of people identifiably different from the heterosexual man or woman, that homosexuality is an absolute state, not expected to differ throughout life, that it is something we are born with - like red hair or blue eyes (pp303-304).
It is far more complicated than this, she said, as few people have a "uniquely homosexual sexual life". There are many different theories to explain sexual orientation and sexual preference on both the nature and the nurture side of the argument. Sexual orientation is a complex behaviour and no single explanation is sufficient, so a combination of ideas would be helpful. But the question is how to combine the different theories. I am proposing an adaptation of a synthesis model to explain aggression (Brewer 2003). Three types of factors (individual, group and social) combine to give the general sexual preference, and then specific triggers lead to the actual sexual behaviour (figure 3). The important point of a synthesis model is the need to combine both sides of the nature and nurture debate.
GENERAL SEXUAL BEHAVIOUR SEXUAL → → → → → → → → → - heterosexual; PREFERENCE ↑ homosexual; bisexual; - own sex; ↑ celibate; other other sex; ↑ both; neither ↑ SPECIFIC ↑ TRIGGERS eg first sexual SOCIAL FACTORS experiences; availability eg society's views of sexual partners and norms; media ↑ GROUP FACTORS eg family norms and behaviour; peer group ↑ INDIVIDUAL FACTORS eg genes; neurochemistry
Figure 3 - A synthesis model to explain sexual orientation.
1. Eg: Adrenogenital Syndrome - chromosomal female but with male appearance of genitalia. It is caused by excessive testosterone during the development of a female foetus (Gross 1992). 2. Individuals may use other terms to describe themselves, like "transgendered", or "trans person" (or "trans"). "Trans" can also include transvestites (crossdressers), and eunuchs (Baird 2001). 3. Bem (1974) developed a test for androgyny called the Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI). Individuals can be androgynous because they have low scores on both masculine and feminine or because they have high scores on both. 4. Sexual preference for non-human objects are classed as paraphilias in DSM-IV (APA 1994). Paraphilias also includes sexual arousal with human beings other than consensual sex. DSM-IV distinguishes three groups of paraphilias (table 10).
NON-HUMAN OBJECTS - Fetishes i) part of body ii) inanimate extension of body eg: shoes iii) specific tactile stimulation eg: leather - Transvestism: dressing in opposite sex's clothes for sexual arousal, not necessarily wanting to be other sex SUFFERING AND HUMILIATION - Sadism: sexual pleasure from inflicting pain and from domination - Masochism: sexual pleasure from receiving pain and from being dominated NON-CONSENTING PARTNERS - Exhibitionism - Voyeurism - Paedophilia - Rape
Table 10 - Types of paraphilia in DSM-IV. 5. Genes have two types - dominant or recessive. Dominant genes require only one copy from either parent to manifest the behaviour (phenotype), while both copies are needed for recessive genes to show the behaviour. Individuals with one copy of a recessive gene are known as carriers. 6. Dawkins (1976; 1989) reduced all behaviour to the aurvival of the gene rather than the survival of the
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individual. He proposed the Central Theorem of Extended Phenotype: "An animal's behaviour tends to maximum survival of genes 'for' that behaviour, whether or not those genes happen to be in the body of the particular animal performing it" (Dawkins 1989 p253). For example, a mother who dies to save her three offspring will have saved one and a half times her own genes because each offspring carries half of the mother's genes (3 x ½ = 1½). Though the mother dies, for Dawkins, it is the genes that survive, and evolution is about the continuation of the genes not the individual (ie: "survival of the fittest genes"). 7. Trivers (1971) proposed the idea of "delayed reciprocal altruism" to explain two genetically unrelated individual working together. It is the idea of returning favours. 8. Linkage studies are based on families with a particular behaviour (or disorder), and it segregates family members with or without the behaviour. It is possible to focus upon a particular loci (position on chromosome), and to see which allele exists there for those family members with the behaviour and those without. At any given genetic locus (position), there are two alleles (copies) of the DNA sequence. One of the alleles is from the biological mother, and one from the biological father. 9. Identical (MZ) twins reared apart showed a higher rate to non-identical (DZ) twins reared together. The fact that the identical twins were raised separately removes the influence of the same environment, and means that any similarities must be due to shared genes. Other research has found higher levels of homosexuality among biological children and relatives than between adopted relatives (Stevens and Price 1996). 10. Bell et al (1981) individually interviewed, for between three to five hours, 686 homosexual males, 293 homosexual females, 337 heterosexual males, and 140 heterosexual females.
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Appendix 1: Bisexuality
The degree of bisexuality in a society depends upon the definition used: If defined as any degree of sexual attraction to both sexes, recent US studies recorded approximately 13% of women and 6% of men; If defined as equal attraction to the two sexes, then the figures are 2% and 1% respectively (LeVay and Valente 2006). Some researchers have questioned the existence of "true bisexuality" in men (eg: Kurt Freund 1974), and suggested that it is a phase of "coming out" for gay men. Weinberg et al (1994) saw bisexuality as a rejection of both heterosexual and homosexual sexual identities. Based on a series of interviews, the researchers categorised four stages in the construction of a bisexual identity: i) Initial confusion Respondents were confused about their sexual attraction towards both sexes: "I couldn't reconcile different desires I had. I didn't understand them. I didn't know what I was. And I ended up feeling really mixed up, unsure, and kind of frightened" (female respondent). ii) Finding and applying the label "bisexual" Realisation that there was a category of sexual
The Nature-Nurture Debate on Human Sexual Orientation; Kevin Brewer; Answers in Psychology No.3; ISBN: 978-1-904542-23-0 2006 55
orientation called "bisexual": "The the word, which was not until I was realised that was what fit for me.. was either a latent homosexual or a heterosexual" (male respondent). iii) Settling into the identity
first time I heard twenty-six, I up to that point.. I confused
Usually associated with self-acceptance, and the feelings that bisexuality was not a transition phase. Of the respondents, 90% believed their bisexuality was a permanent sexual orientation, though 40% of them did accept that one day they could change. iv) Continued uncertainty Even after the previous stage, a quarter of men and women still admitted to confusion about their bisexuality. The reaction of others, like rejection by the gay community, was important. But heterosexuals were not that welcoming either. For example, US heterosexual college students rated bisexuality men and women more negatively than homosexuals (Eliason 1997) (table 11). This has been called "biphobia".
% OF HETEROSEXUAL US COLLEGE STUDENTS Bisexual female Lesbian Bisexual male Gay man
(After LeVay and Valente 2006)
50 38 60 42
Table 11 - Rating of sexual orientation as "very" or "somewhat unacceptable".
Appendix 2: Celibacy
Surveys of sexual behaviour find that a small group of individuals are not having sexual contact either out of choice or not. Donnelly et al (2004) defined the latter as "involuntary celibacy" to include couples who no longer have sex, individuals who cannot find a willing partner, and those who have never had sex. They can be any sexual orientation. There are a number of reasons for celibacy from choice and involuntary (table 12).
VOLUNTARY CELIBACY - religious reasons eg: priesthood - fear of disease (eg: HIV) or pregnancy - persons with illness or disability INVOLUNTARY CELIBACY - couples: pregnancy/recent childbirth; unhappiness with relationship; presence of children in home; increasing age - singles: unable to find willing partner because of opportunity (eg: lack of suitable people available in local area) or motivation (eg: too tired after working) - disability/illness: either individual unable to find partner or others unwilling towards individual
Table 12- Types and reasons for celibacy. Donnelly et al (2004) interviewed online eighty-two volunteer participants (sixty men; twenty-two women) in their study of "involuntary celibates". The majority were US residents (70%), white (89%), and heterosexual (85%). Three categories of respondents were explored: i) "Virginal celibates" (34 participants) - No current partner and never had sex; 76% male and 24% female; youngest of three categories. Many experienced difficulties in the teen years, in terms of dating relationships, and never made the transition into sexual relationships. Shyness was common (94% of respondents in this category); ii) "Single celibates" (25 participants) - no current partner but had past sexual experiences; 80% male and 20% female; some had lived with a partner in the past, and some had used prostitutes before. Had difficulty finding and maintaining relationships, and so tended to go long periods between sexual behaviour.
The Nature-Nurture Debate on Human Sexual Orientation; Kevin Brewer; Answers in Psychology No.3; ISBN: 978-1-904542-23-0 2006 57
Shyness was an issue (84% of respondents here). As with "virgins", concern over body image was mentioned as were practical issues like work arrangements (eg: sex-segregated occupations); iii) "Partnered celibates" (23 participants) currently partnered and had previous sexual experiences with that person; 61% male and 39% female; oldest of three categories. In most cases the lack of sexual behaviour evolved, and, in some cases, where a definite decision was made, it related to childbirth. Celibacy is the situation of not having sex despite being interested, but there are individuals who show no interest in physical sexual intimacy throughout their lives. These are asexual individuals, and make up 1% of the population (Bogaert 2004). Obviously some asexual individuals would be among the "virginal celibates".
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