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Homophobia Phobia: Bad Science or Bad Science Comprehension?

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Two columns ago, I discussed evolutionary psychologist Gordon Gallup’s theory about the possible adaptive function of homophobia, or, more broadly defined, negative attitudes toward gay people. Central to his position—which, he assures me, has not since wavered—is that homophobic responses "are proportional to the extent to which the homosexual [is] in a position that might provide extended contact with children and/or would allow the person to influence a child’s emerging sexuality." I also described a set of studies meant to test some hypotheses related to this theory, and which, according to Gallup, offered provisional evidentiary support.

I expressed some unease with the implications (and insinuations) of Gallup’s line of argument. But I was also rather unabashed in my conviction that his theory, though impolitic, was not only plausible, but also insightful and worth revisiting, particularly now, when homophobia may be too hastily, and simplistically, characterized as "socially learned." To explicate, using the neutral language of evolution, the idea that homophobia may be adaptive, and furthermore that it is adaptive because children exposed to homosexuals may themselves develop same-sex attractions, is a delicate affair, to say the least. It is tempting to see Gallup’s position, as many indeed have, as a homophobia apologetic disguised as science, one that was specific to a particular time and place. A 2006 piece by psychologist Stephen Clark, for example, accused Gallup of "suggest[ing] that negative attitudes and discrimination directed toward homosexuals are justified on evolutionary grounds." Jeremy Yoder, a PhD student studying evolutionary biology, concludes similarly that Gallup’s unwarranted argument "gives natural selection approval to prevailing ugly stereotypes."

I did give fair warning in my original post, I should say, that Gallup’s theory was sure to provoke just these types of defensive, emotion-addled responses, that it was "likely to boil untold liters of blood and prompt mountains of angry fists to clench in revolt." And this it did, such as in the above cases. PZ Myers, by contrast, was disappointed that Gallup’s work didn’t deliver the much-anticipated "throb of adrenaline" that I’d promised him. I can try to deliver for Myers this time, but I did add the caveat, did I not, that "it’s the best—the kindest—of you out there likely to get the most upset."

After swiftly dismissing the expected lunatic fringe (any non-sarcastic mention of Sodom and Gomorrah would qualify as such), there was still a coterie of unhappy responders to my post, the vast majority from a corner that readers might not expect to be so opposed to Gallup’s arguments—evolutionary biology. Between the disciplines, it’s no secret that many evolutionary biologists have a "problem" with evolutionary psychology, holding its practitioners in almost the same regard as creationists. "Ugh," wrote one Pharyngula commentator, "[e]volutionary psychologists make the rest of us look bad. I have to smile and make nice when we pass in the faculty lounge. It brings me great pain." What Christ-like behavior indeed.

To get at the heart of their problems with Gallup’s theory, and to try to better understand this animosity over evolutionary psychology and why it’s so often hailed as the country cousin of their own discipline, Gordon Gallup has agreed—rather nice of him, given the tone—to respond to these biologists’ concerns.

BERING: Let’s address the elephant in the room. It’s embarrassing for me to even ask this of you, since the answer is so obviously "no" to me. Is your theory a justification of your own homophobia?

GALLUP: A lot of people think that if a person has a theory it’s a window unto their soul. I have lots of theories. (See CV (pdf).) I have a theory of homophobia, I have a theory of homosexuality, and I have a theory of permanent breast enlargement in women, just to mention a few. So that would make me a homophobic, homosexual who is preoccupied with women’s breasts. I am not homophobic and I’m not homosexual. My only interest in homosexuality and homophobia is to use evolutionary theory to generate evidence that may shed new light on what have heretofore been poorly understood phenomena.

BERING: Evolutionary biologists, but also non-specialists, casually deride evolutionary psychology as generating "just-so stories." Jon Wilkins, for example, of the Santa Fe Institute, reminds us that, "plausibility is NOT scientific proof." Likewise, Yoder layers his critique of your work with references to Brother Grimm fairy tales. Larry Moran of the University of Toronto, writes, "Why is it that respected evolutionary psychologists think these just-so stories are an important part of their discipline?"

How has this just-so-story rhetoric affected your research, and what, in your view, are the implications of this type of Gouldian-era language for the discipline as a whole?

GALLUP: Just as the title of my 1996 reply to John Archer implies, everything in science boils down to a matter of evidence. I have never taken the position that plausibility is a substitute for evidence. My 1995 paper along with my reply to Archer is based almost entirely on evidence. It is interesting how my critics tip-toe around the fact that my approach is based on a testable hypothesis, and how they go out of their way to side-step the fact that the data we’ve collected are consistent with the predictions. Whether it is politically incorrect or contrary to prevailing social dogma, is irrelevant. In science, knowing is preferable to not knowing. Minds are like parachutes, they only function when they’re open. If I were a homosexual, I’d want to know about these data.

While we’re on the topic of "just-so stories," one of the comments on the SciAm blog argues that all of my 1995 findings could just as easily be subsumed by a simple concern about child sexual abuse. But if that were the case, then why in the third study did the level of concern about a child staying overnight at a friend’s house in the presence of the friend’s homosexual parent, flip flop as a function of whether there was a match between the sex of the child and the sex of the homosexual parent? Homosexuals don’t have a monopoly on child sexual abuse. Heterosexual matches also pose a risk of child sexual abuse!

BERING: One common complaint lodged against evolutionary psychology is that its methods, which typically do not track the claimed fitness benefit, are inadequate for testing its hypotheses. PZ Myers, in surveying your homophobia studies, writes:

 

They know nothing about heritability, they’ve shown nothing about differential survival or fecundity … Is this to be the fate of evolutionary psychology, that it shrivels away into irrelevancy as its proponents overhype (sic) feeble, pathetic data sets?

Myers is, of course, notorious for such over-the-top statements—like the Jim Bakker of New Atheists, a caricature of sweat, histrionics and stage glitter, he sees religious conspiracies as often as evangelicals see the Devil. But Yoder also complains that your work fails to "mention evidence of heritability or a fitness benefit to homophobia." (Rob Kurzban explains, importantly, how Yoder bungles the term heritability in reference to evolved adaptations: "If Yoder is right [about the definition of heritability], someone needs to update Wikipedia. And all the biology textbooks.")

So how do you respond to these concerns that evolutionary psychology, with its focus on modern behaviors and decision-making, ignores genetics?

GALLUP: Assertions that evolutionary psychologists know nothing about heritability and fail to relate their findings to survival and fecundity are naïve and unfounded. As detailed in a series of recent reviews, people with faces judged to be more attractive are more fertile. Men with attractive faces have higher quality sperm, men and women with attractive faces live longer, they are healthier, and have better immune systems. A recent study based on over 10,000 people shows that those with attractive faces do in fact have more children. Both men and women with fewer deviations from bilateral symmetry (low fluctuating asymmetry) are mentally, physically, and genetically healthier, and more fertile. Guess what? They also have more attractive faces.

We’ve shown that a person’s voice is also related to fitness. Just as people with more attractive faces are more symmetrical, the same is true for people with more attractive voices. The sound of a person’s voice conveys information about their gender, age, body configuration, hormonal status, when they lost their virginity, how many sex partners they’ve had, their propensity for infidelity, whether they are on birth control pills, and whether they are in the fertile phase of their menstrual cycle.

There are many other well-documented proxies for fitness. Evolutionary psychologists have found that women with hourglass figures (low waist-to-hip ratios) are rated as more attractive, and it’s been shown that these women are healthier and more fertile. They also have more attractive voices.

Grip strength (pdf) is another compelling case in point. Individual differences in grip strength predict recovery from surgery, morbidity, joint impairment, bone density, fat-free body mass, muscle mass, disability and morbidity, protein loss, and even the risk of dementia. Grip strength is not only heritable, but men with high grip strength scores also have more attractive faces and, would you believe, more attractive voices.

While we’re on the subject, heritability and heritable are not always the same. Rather than being an index of whether a trait is inherited, heritability is a measure of the proportion of individual differences in the expression of a trait that are due to underlying differences in genes. With the exception of a pair of identical twins, heritability is always greater than zero. No one has ever done a selective breeding experiment and failed to find an effect, and that includes behavioral traits.

Now, what about homosexuality? For most of human evolutionary history, exclusive homosexuality would have been tantamount to a ticket to reproductive oblivion. Even today, adult male homosexuals who also engage in heterosexual intercourse are the exception rather than the rule. If homosexuality were only heritable, it would have disappeared long ago. In the context of our discussion of homophobia, what would have been the fate in future generations of genes being carried by parents who went out of their way to encourage and engineer homosexual lifestyles among their children? Enough said? Not quite. What causes homosexuality? Heterosexuality does, both literally and figuratively. Unless you’ve been conceived through artificial means, everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, owes their very existence to the heterosexual activity of their parents.

BERING: The most controversial aspect of your theory is that gay adults can influence a child’s developing sexuality, increasing their adult arousability to same-sex partners. Homosexual offspring, you argue, would normally be detrimental to overall genetic fitness; even bisexual offspring would be so, all else being equal.

Some animal models demonstrate how specific developmental experiences are linked to adult sexuality (for example, rat pups that nurse from dams whose teats are sprayed with a citral scent have difficulty ejaculating as adults during intercourse with any female that isn’t similarly lemony smelling), but much less is known about the precise role of early childhood experiences in shaping adult sexuality. We do, however, know that there is not a straightforward genetic pathway, as evidenced by the fact that, in some cases, only one member of an identical twin set is homosexual. Can you expound on this issue of "sexual imprinting"?

GALLUP: In contrast to women, men have what amounts to a monopoly on paraphilias and kinky sex. This is consistent with the idea that there may be a critical period following the onset of puberty that leads to sexual imprinting in males. This can be used to generate a number of testable predictions. Sexual experiences that occur before or after the critical period ought to have little or no lasting effect on sexual orientation. With parental homophobia, evolution doesn’t always result in perfect outcomes. As evidenced by the 1995 data from the third study, parents show a generalized concern for young children that are perceived to be impressionable.

According to an imprinting model, prepubertal boys who are sexually molested by older males should be relatively unaffected in terms of their sexual orientation. I would also predict that heterosexual men sent to prison and coerced into same-sex relationships with other inmates, ought to resume heterosexual lifestyles on being released. There are data that show that being sent to all male boarding schools increases the incidence of homosexuality; I would predict that this effect would be conditional upon whether they were in such schools when they went through puberty. As detailed in my 1996 reply to Archer, we’ve collected data from male homosexuals that show that most gay males don’t report getting a clear sense of their homosexual orientation until they have their first same-sex postpubertal sexual experience. I would also expect other "sex object choices," such as fetishes, to be tied to sexual experiences males have in association with sex shortly after the onset of puberty.

BERING: You claim, citing several older datasets, that homosexual men are more likely to have sexual relations with children and adolescents than are heterosexual men. In an email exchange with Ray Blanchard, perhaps the world’s leading scholar on the study of "erotic age orientation," he confirmed that a major analysis of penile responses indeed shows that, "homosexual pedophiles constitute a disproportionate number of pedophiles." But he also adds an important caveat, which is that most homosexual males are teleiophiles—attracted to adults—and they are no more attracted to children than are heterosexual teleiophiles.

Hence the confusing language in popular summaries of this analysis, such as Alice Dreger’s, "Do gay men have more sexual interest in children than straight men do? No. And we have lab studies to prove it." That’s correct. However, it’s important to understand that she and Blanchard use "gay men" to refer to homosexual teleiophiles only, excluding from this category those attracted to prepubescent or pubescent boys. Blanchard clarified for me: "Neither of us uses ‘gay’ as a synonym for ‘homosexual.’ We use ‘gay’ as a synonym for ‘homosexual teleiophile.’ He’s also non-committal about your theory but leans toward skepticism, largely because of the following:

Homosexual pedophiles are rarely detectably effeminate; in contrast, homosexual teleiophiles often are. Homosexual pedophiles become soccer coaches; drag queens generally do not. The degree of separation might not be perfect, but it could be good enough for natural selection, which doesn’t have to get it right every single time. Therefore separating children from the most visible homosexual men, which is probably what happens, would have no adaptive value whatsoever.

How do you reconcile these observations with your theory?

GALLUP: The evidence reviewed in my 1996 response to John Archer shows that the incidence of gay males who have sex with minors—although these are likely to be postpubertal age—is far higher than Blanchard suggests. There is also evidence that shows that the propensity to have sex with minors is positively correlated with promiscuity among homosexual males. Unlike heterosexual pedophiles, homosexuals who have sex with minors target young postpubertal victims. Although they rarely admit it, heterosexual males experience sexual arousal to photos of young postpubescent females as well. Homosexuals are merely expressing a generalized evolved male strategy that puts a premium on youth. Unlike a man, a woman’s capacity to reproduce following puberty is inversely proportional to her age.

BERING: Finally, if you were to conduct a follow-up study today, what, if anything, would you do differently? What questions remain unanswered in your mind, and how do they relate to the ostensibly positive shifts in attitudes regarding gays and lesbians since your original theory formation?

GALLUP: With the help of a transfer student from Taiwan, the surveys used in my 1995 paper were translated into Chinese. When this student returned to Taiwan several years later, she was able to replicate all of the effects I reported in a sample of native Taiwanese college students. While this doesn’t prove the results are a cross-cultural universal, it certainly implies that they aren’t an artifact of Western culture.

Several years ago, following a talk I gave on homophobia, a colleague who was there sent me the following anecdote which shows how the results of our research on hypothetical parenting questions have real world implications, and suggests how these evolved mechanisms operate below the radar:

 

My husband has a former student who is gay. He and my husband still collaborate and the student comes here to work on papers once or twice a year and he stays at our place. The three of us have spent quite a bit of time talking about the student’s life–he has a steady partner, and both of them continue to ‘cruise’–and my husband’s never seemed at all bothered by it. The first time the student came to stay after our son was born my husband was incredibly aggressive with him–verbally and physically. At one point, my husband was outdoors and the student, my son and I were in the kitchen. The phone rang. It was for my husband, so I went outdoors to let him know. He immediately got on my case for leaving the baby "alone." That night, I talked to my husband about your ideas about parent’s attitudes towards homosexuals and he was pretty shocked. He said he had felt very uncomfortable with the student around and didn’t understand it, because he had never been upset before. My husband has two daughters and he said it never bothered him when the student was around them and that the student had babysat for them on any number of occasions. Clearly, he feels quite differently about it now, although rationally he’s not worried about the student.

Before anyone accepts the unfounded assertions that my work is an attempt to somehow demean and diminish homosexuality and promote homophobia, they should read my 1995 paper. If you do, you will learn that the theory also predicts that even homosexuals ought to be homophobic under certain circumstances.

Contrary to the claim that most evolutionary psychologists make evolutionary biologists look bad, it’s my critics who haven’t bothered to read the literature and should know better, that make themselves look bad.

***

Bering here, to address an important issue in closing. Yoder, along with Forbes’ blogger Will Wilkinson and Scienceblogs’ Mike the Mad Biologist found fault with my decision to popularize Gallup’s obscure, dated research: "Why on Earth would Bering dredge up Gallup’s adaptive fairytale a decade and a half after it was published, if it was baseless to begin with?" [Is there some secret induction ceremony I should be aware of in which biologist yearlings must swear an oath to their stodgy supervisor to endlessly echo this generic just-so-story mantra?]

My answer is two-fold: First, simply because it is not baseless. I don’t agree with Gallup on all of the details (for example, he gives too short shrift, I think, to heritable individual differences in the potential for sexual imprinting and homosexuality). As I emphasized in my original post, Gallup’s 1995 study is imperfect, as all early-stage research endeavors are, and indeed his findings are not without alternative explanations (incidentally, however, not a single one of these critics—Myers, Yoder, Wilkinson, Wilkins, or Morgan—actually engages with Gallup’s specific findings, but instead simply brush off the data as "bad science" or "ridiculous"). But Gallup’s findings are the only data available, and they do indeed, as he says, support his hypotheses. Never did I—and never, ever, anywhere, do I—use the word "prove." Psychological science is cumulative, and whether homophobia constitutes an adaptation remains an open question. (Hence the question mark after my title, "Natural Homophobes?"—re-billed as the sensationalized "Darwin Hates Fags").

Second, perhaps Yoder, a gay man like me, I gather, lives in a happily cloistered, academic, professional world with kind intellectual friends and colleagues whose stomachs no longer turn—or do they?—when happening upon two men or two women cuddling and kissing; perhaps this privileged social ambience has created in him the impression that homophobia is "obviously" a socially-learned, cultural bias, since it has indeed gotten better even over the short course of our own lives.

But, and I’ll stand by this claim, with the possible exception of artificially populated communities such as certain neighborhoods in San Francisco, there is not a single human society on this planet—and there probably never has been, even in ancient Greece, even among the Sambia of New Guinea—where two men can share a romantic kiss and embrace, especially in the presence of children, without meeting palpable disapproval. If you doubt this, go out on Main Street and try it; notice how many parents quickly shuffle their children away or, among gay-friendlier parents, watch how their faces are frozen with indecision about how to handle this scene so that it complements their humanitarian views. (I couldn’t persuade my partner, Juan, to conduct this experiment with me, so, intrepid gay souls, please do report back.) And if it’s all social learning, it’s curious, is it not, that children all over the globe must be explicitly taught not to be homophobic, not the other way around; antigay attitudes in sixth-grade boys seem as naturally emerging as language acquisition in infants. Exceptions are rare; so rare, in fact, that they make national headlines.

I, for one, would like to know why this aversion to gay people is, always has been, and always may be, so endemic to our species. Evolved social biases—in whatever form they take—can only wither away the more by shining a mercilessly bright light of science on them. If this reveals unsavory blemishes, such as the stereotype that gay men are pedophiles, so be it. Some are—and as Blanchard’s data reveal, homosexual males are in fact overrepresented in this category. Most aren’t. As I’ve said before, data don’t cringe; people do. The fear among gay men of being branded as pedophiles or "hebephiles" is understandable, given the moral climate, but it is also a cowardly, self-serving nod of approval for us to dehumanize other social undesirables. "Well, I’m gay, but at least I’m not one of them!" But of course not all such individuals are child molesters. I’m very much of the same mind as Blanchard about this, when he writes that, "they cannot be blamed for what they feel, and they should be supported for the constant self-restraint they must exercise in order to behave ethically."

So, I’ll continue to dredge up any old theory, no matter how meager the supporting data, that—with revised methodologies and growing conceptual nuance—can inspire other researchers to better understand why human beings who, through absolutely no fault of their own, aside from the fact that their genitals happen to leaven or lubricate in statistically atypical fashion at the sight of a penis or vagina, are all over the world, right now, being beaten, derided, driven to suicide and murdered.

About The Author: Want more Bering in Mind? Follow Jesse on Twitter @JesseBering, visit www.jessebering.com, or friend Jesse on Facebook. Jesse is the author of newly released book, The Belief Instinct: The Psychology of Souls, Destiny and the Meaning of Life (W. W. Norton).





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  1. 1. anotherjenny 11:17 am 03/22/2011

    Love your writing, fascinating article. I’m a research psychologist as well – but not an evolutionary psychologist, I’m a developmental psychologist. In any case, I do think that it is important for us to continue looking at the things that make us uncomfortable. I have an idea of how to look at this question – do behavioral observations at same-sex family events, and watch how gay parents themselves act around their kids and same gender parents. I wonder what you’d find. As a lesbian mom myself, I’d be really interested in the findings. I also have to say that there are a myriad of problems with self-report studies and think that we have to therefore take Gallup’s research with a huge grain of salt and let it be a beginning of this research. There have to be other ways to look at these sorts of questions that get at actual human behavior as opposed to what people think they think about a given hypothetical situation. People lie to themselves, distort things, and say what they think you think they should be thinking. It’s a problem.

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  2. 2. sjd0218 2:39 pm 03/22/2011

    The validity of this theory, if it is in fact valid, does not make homophobia right. Evolution is not a god that grants "righteousness" to a behavior or trait. Nor does it make behavior an inevitable outcome. We all overcome our natural behaviors for the good of the group, or for the good of ourselves.

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  3. 3. EdgarManhattan 3:43 pm 03/22/2011

    Here’s just one of Mr. Bering’s odd assertions that popped out at me:

    "… there is not a single human society on this planet–and there probably never has been, even in Ancient Greece, even among the Sambia of New Guinea–where two men can share a romantic kiss and embrace, especially in the presence of children, without meeting palpable disapproval"

    He excepts modern "artificial" environments – basicly, the environments he’s aware of which contradict him – but I’d like to know how he has come by this knowledge of all other current and past world cultures?

    Those who are reality-based do not have any information at all about people’s attitudes to same-sex eroticism and romance in most of the human cultures which have ever existed, because those peoples left no writing. We do, however, have documentation supporting the acceptance of romantic attachments between some same-sex partners in different periods and places in pre-westernized Japan and India, which had written languages to record their attitudes.

    Gallup and Bering are examples of the many psychologists who are so culture-bound that they assume that their own tribe’s characteristics define normalcy for humanity. Another example – they could only use the word "homosexuals" the way they do because their personal understanding of human sexual identities is modern and Judeo-Christian. Humans who engage in homosexual activities have always existed, but the terms "Homosexual" and "Heterosexual" used to define sexual identities in this way were invented in the late 19th century by European medical writers (as Gallup and Bering know), and have never matched the actual sexual identities lived by the majority of humans (as they apparently do not know). Their understanding of romance between men is equally culture-bound and limited. I am sure they are both widely read – and that they have mainly read the writings of their fellow modern Judeo-Christian psychologists, who make the same cultural assumptions.

    From their writing it’s clear that they don’t understand the vast complexity and diversity of current human sexuality – I see no indication that they are qualified to speak authoritatively for hominids who lived a million years ago.

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  4. 4. bjnicholls 4:19 pm 03/22/2011

    In evolutionary psychology, "theory" seems to equal "just-so story" far too often. A theoretical standard of, "No matter how meager the supporting data" is no way to run a scientific discipline.

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  5. 5. peterjtaylor 4:25 pm 03/22/2011

    I have no quarrel with Gallup or Bering, it IS interesting data and it’s worth discussing. But I think your comment is on the right track, because you’re referencing the underlying problem with so much of the research on homosexuality and sexual orientation. To categorize people as "heterosexual" and "homosexual" is to dramatically oversimplify the real normative range of sexual behavior. Over and over research assumes the existence of two discreet orientations when there is apparently a sizable percentage of people who report significant sexual experience with both sexes. Any theory that ignores this factor is to me at least, quite incomplete.

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  6. 6. EricMJohnson 5:44 pm 03/22/2011

    Jesse Bering: "[T]here is not a single human society on this planet–and there probably never has been…where two men can share a romantic kiss and embrace, especially in the presence of children, without meeting palpable disapproval…[T]his aversion to gay people is, always has been, and always may be, so endemic to our species."

    John Boswell: "Initially the ceremony of same-sex union was, like the heterosexual ceremony in the Barberini manuscript, merely a set of prayers, but by the time of the flowering of liturgical marriage ceremonies in the twelfth century it had become a full office, involving the burning of candles, the placing of the two parties’ hands on the Gospel, the joining of their right hands, the binding of their hands (or covering their heads) with the priest’s stole, an introductory litany (like that in Barberini No. 1), crowning, the Lord’s Prayer, Communion, a kiss, and sometimes circling around the alter."

    - Boswell (1994). Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe, Vintage Books, p. 185.

    Donald Forgey: "The institution of berdache [two-spirit or queer identified native peoples] was widespread among the Plains tribes. It has been reported among such nomadic tribes as the Assiniboine, Dakota, Plains Cree, Clseyenne, Arapaho, and Crow and among such village tribes as the Mandan, Hidatsa, Omaha, Caddo, Kansa, and Pawnee. Public sentiments towards berdaches varied among the different tribes, rarlging from a neutral attitude of quiet tolerance, as among the Sioux to a positive one of great esteem, as among the Cheyenne." [See paper for citations of each example.]

    - Forgey (1975). The Institution of Berdache among the North American Plains Indians, The Journal of Sex Research 11(1): 1-15. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3811639

    Leila Rupp: "In Basotho society in contemporary Lesotho [in southern Africa], girls and women exchange long kisses, putting their tongues in each others’ mouths; they fondle each other and endeavor to lengthen the labia minora; they rub their bodies together and engage in cunnilingus without defining any of this as sexual. They fall in love and form marriage-like unions."

    - Rupp (2001). Toward a Global History of Same-Sex Sexuality, Journal of the History of Sexuality, 10(2): 287-302. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3704817

    Be careful about using absolutist statements Jesse.

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  7. 7. ejwillingham 6:06 pm 03/22/2011

    I realize that what I’m about to produce is pure anecdote, but it involves actual juvenile human beings whom I, a biologist, have observed from infancy onward, so here goes: Our three sons (ages 4, 8, and 9) have shown *no confusion about or even particular interest whatsoever* in same-sex human pairings, whether male-male or female-female. They’ve witnessed them on various television shows (Top Chef, Top Chef Just Desserts…(ahem) we watch these for their social communication lessons, really); they know same-sex couples, one of whom has just had a child…and not once have they commented on it as unusual or different from some expected "norm." In fact, they seem to assume that if you like someone of the same sex or want to pair-bond with them…so what? Is that because of *our* social teaching–or non-teaching? Or were they just born that way? And which outcome should we anticipate as they age? A social construct of their perception of orientation, or an innate perspective that, as of now, seems to hold no biases?

    Further, I still see this discussion of sexuality as rather constrained. The homophobia referenced here appears to refer only to males (?). It’s clearly OK in many societies for women to engage in sex w/ each other…yet isn’t that reproductively disadvantageous, as well, as we are not parthenogenic lizards? Why is it not repulsive or whatever? Finally, when is a kiss a kiss? When is sex an act of mating vs. simply an act, and what is the ratio of sex for mating vs. sex for sex? They appear to serve different purposes for many H. sapiens. If reproductive fitness were the only parameter to consider, then whence all these other layers of adaptation related to pair bonding, not only in humans but in other species?

    Lots of questions, but discussions like this release them in my brain like a horde of angry bees.

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  8. 8. charles_tow 6:21 pm 03/22/2011

    If anything your counterexamples offer support to Bering’s position. As you say Bering writes "[T]here is not a single human society on this planetand there probably never has been…where two men can share a romantic kiss and embrace, especially in the presence of children, without meeting palpable disapproval.." In your cultural examples these are either rare secret rituals between men not in public and not everyday behavior. Or they involve open sex between women. Lesbianism is prob irrelevant evolutionarily and Bering says men only in his assertion presumably due to the sex difference he describes earlier. As for the Native Americans I don’t know but whether they were as tolerant toward gays as Forgey writes is probably controversial itself.

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  9. 9. jen05drex 7:04 pm 03/22/2011

    I’ve been following this thread and discussion. Fascinating stuff!

    But Eric, I think you confuse something with your cultural examples. Jesse isn’t saying that there are no cultural differences in acceptance of gays and lesbians. Surely that is not the case, as your examples show. But ethnographic examples like the ones you (helpfully) offer have the same problems as self-reports in psychology experiments.

    Jesse says that two men kissing romantically in public would meet with "palpable disapproval," and that just means measurable behaviorally. Your examples are like saying that racism no longer exists in certain parts of America–until you administer something that scratches beneath surface attitudes, such as the IAT. I’d bet, like Jesse, that the same applies here.

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  10. 10. EricMJohnson 7:22 pm 03/22/2011

    Actually, you’re wrong about that. The same-sex unions were more common than you’d expect for a devoutly Christian society and I’d encourage you to check out Boswell’s book. I included the lesbian example in order to be more inclusive (see ejwillingham’s comment for why the discussion shouldn’t be reserved to men alone). My quote from Forgey concerning Plains Indian tribes should have been more than ample to make my point. But, if you like, here’s another that contradicts the assertion about ancient Greece:

    James Neill: "Xenophon, too, makes several references to sexual relationships between youths of similar ages, the first, in his history, Anabasis, to the relationship that Menon of Thessaly had, as a youth, with a barbarian youth, and, second, in his Symposium, to two youths among the guests at the banquet who are depicted as in love, and who actually kiss during the course of the discussion. In reference to the passion of one of the youths, the character of Socrates says: ‘This hot flame of his was kindled in the days when they used to go to school together,’ leaving no doubt that the sexual relationship described was between youths of similar ages."

    Neill (2009). The Origins and Role of Same-Sex Relations in Human Societies, McFarland, p. 170.

    It’s also a little unfair to say that the Sambia culture wouldn’t tolerate same-sex kissing when they don’t have kissing of any kind in their society (see Gilbert Herdt’s "Sambia Sexual Culture: Essays From the Field, p. 5).

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  11. 11. EricMJohnson 7:27 pm 03/22/2011

    My only point in citing these examples is that one shouldn’t make universal claims when the data you’re drawing from are exclusively from modern Western societies. I see this as a big problem in a lot of discussions involving Evolutionary Psychology and is something that should be corrected whenever it pops up.

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  12. 12. kimcmich 8:25 pm 03/22/2011

    I was the "SciAm commenter" who proposed Gallup’s work could be explained by a simple concern for child sexual abuse. His attempt to refute my claim was to suggest that concern over child sexual abuse does not explain his third study in which "the level of concern about a child staying overnight at a friend’s house in the presence of the friend’s homosexual parent, flip flop as a function of whether there was a match between the sex of the child and the sex of the homosexual parent." Gallup’s response leaves me confused: People are concerned about sexual abuse in proportion to the likelihood that an abuser will target their child for abuse. Heightened concern over the potential of sexual abuse for a child in the presence of a same-sex homosexual adult; and lower concern for a child in the presense of an opposite sex homosexual adult is exactly what we would expect. For the same reason that parents concern over sexual abuse would flip-flop based on the mis-match between adult and child for heterosexual adults, we would expect the gender match for homosexual adults to display the flip-flop. I don’t see how Gallup’s third study does anything but reinforce my simpler explanation. He also does nothing to address the confounding issue of societal stereoptyping of homosexuals as more sexually predatory than heterosexuals. The shallowness of Gallup’s thinking when it comes to criticism of his work is telling.

    And finally a note directly to Mr. Bering: Your knowledge in the area of the history of homosexuality and culture is woefully inadequate. In some sense this is forgiveable because we don’t have detailed cultural information about all past human cultures before – but we do have information about human cultures in which same sex couples were cultural heroes (Greece) and or deities (Egypt). Despite this, you feel confident to claim that there was probly never a cultural in which two men could share PDAs without disapproval. You have nothing but a hunch to back this up (and ample evidence exists to contradict your hunch) and yet you felt confident in claiming such. You suggest support for this idea can be had by looking at "Main Street" – as if our Western cultural heritage of homophobia is proof that no human society ever accepted homosexuality. The bias here is plain to see – you and Gallup both share it. It isn’t a bias that would lead you to gay bash or even to be intolerant. It’s merely a bias that makes you ready to accept the contigent way our society treats homosexuals as the way society is supposed to be. It isn’t.

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  13. 13. charles_tow 8:51 pm 03/22/2011

    Easy to pick out anthro bits about gays and lesbian in hsitory but so what? SAys nothing about underlying psychology which is Bering’s point. On the ancient Greece thing a lot of myths. There are historical writings that it was *not* accepted popularly and this is consistent with gallup/Bering’s view. This from wikipedia for example "One such scholar is Bruce Thornton, who argues that insults directed at passive homosexuals in the comedies of Aristophanes show the common people’s dislike for male homosexuality" and it was all man boy love. If the boy grew up and wanted to be with other men it was frowned on. "To fail to switch roles was considered unmanly and irresponsible" On "passive homosexuals and gives a glimpse of the type of biting social opprobrium heaped upon them by their society."

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  14. 14. kimcmich 8:52 pm 03/22/2011

    Comment characters limits suck.

    I’d like to amend and reword my last sentences above. Your bias makes you ready to accept that there are "good" reasons for societal homophobia – namely, evolutionary reasons – rather than societal homophobia merely being, say, a choice or contingency of our cultural history. In some sense it is comforting to see being homophobic as something that people were "made to be" by evolution rather than something people "choose to be" at some point in our cultural development. Your desire for this determinacy even motivated you to claim that all children everywhere have to be taught not to be homophobic without pausing to consider that the ubiquity of "Main Street" homophobia you sited before might explain that. It’s this lack of aptitude in considering simple alternate explanations that gives me so little confidence in both your and Gallup’s conclusions.

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  15. 15. kimcmich 9:19 pm 03/22/2011

    Charles Tow,

    Anthropology is the aggregation of "anthro bits" – you can’t dismiss certain parts simply because you don’t like them. And your apparent ability to see the "underlying psychological" states of people who lived millenia ago is impressive.

    The "ancient Greece thing" is not "a lot of myths." You need to read more deeply than the first Wikipedia entry you found with a reference you liked. Humor is not a reflection of the totality of cultural ideas on a topic. Jokes about bad women drivers coexist with a world in which women have fewer car accidents (and capably drive race cars).

    Besides, the issue here is not whether there have been cultures that were homophobic (there were) – or even whether such cultures are common (they are). The issue is whether Gallup’s studies represent good evidence that homophobia has an evolutionary explanation (they don’t).

    An additional point made by me is that the inability of both Gallup and Bering to see simple and more compelling alternate explanations for cultural homophobia is a reflection of the bias cultural homophobia imposes on all of us.

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  16. 16. charles_tow 9:43 pm 03/22/2011

    Hey I never claimed to be able to "see the "underlying psychological" states of people who lived millenia ago is impressive." what i’m saying is that these are psychological questions not just cultural/anthro ones and there is probably a lot of "noise" in cultural differences that doens’t translate at a deeper level of how people think (and behave) "under the radar" as gallup calls it. I know you think i’m stuck in "the bias of cultural homophobia" in favoring the evo explanation but you are equally closedminded to think that homophobia is just cultural since you have no evidence to that effect either (in fact less so than gallup does). On the ancient Greece thing I’m not a classicist but from everything i have read (and yes more than wikipedia) it was not gay friendly, just pedophile friendly and effeminate adult gay men that were bottoms were teh scourge of the earth and sodomy with a man was punishable. I remember something about a radish that i won’t go into. if it were so acceptable outside the aristocracy there should be a lot of gay adult male couples in history not just a few here and there. And you don’t answer my question about why after reaching manhood they have to get married to women and have kids for society.

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  17. 17. EdgarManhattan 9:53 pm 03/22/2011

    How can you say that counter-examples to his assertion actually support it? They are counter examples. Romantic and erotic love between Japanese samurai or Spartan warriors was not secret or hidden or seen as repugnant, and there are plenty of other examples which refute Mr. Bering’s sweeping assertions.

    And then there are the billions of humans who lived in cultures which are just gone – disappeared. Think of the Native Americans who hunted on Manhattan island ten thousand years ago, and the very different peoples who hunted the same forests five thousand years ago – how is it that he can be so certain that same-sex romance was forbidden in those long gone cultures? Even if they had left written records, their languages disappeared long, long ago. Where is his actual data?

    No one has addressed his assumptions about child abuse, either, which are equally culture-bound. There are cultures today where pre-pubescent children are married to each other, or pre-pubescent girls are married to adult men, or a man’s sons or daughters are loaned or sold to various adult men for sexual pleasure. There are other cultures today where teenage men become the sexual partners of adult men, knowing that when they themselves become adult they too will take a teenage lover. In the two I have personal knowledge of, the men do not talk of this around women in public, or kiss in public – but that is custom, no one kisses in public in those cultures.

    What is considered child abuse in 21st century America is not considered child abuse in all other human cultures today – how can he be certain that they have been considered child abuse by now vanished hominids who lived hundreds of thousands of years ago?

    The Gallup / Bering speculations just don’t hold up for humans in all times and cultures, but Gallup and Bering claim that they do. That’s the issue. What’s true in a suburb of Cleveland today really can’t be claimed as true for million-year-old hominids without convincing data – which is totally absent from their writing.

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  18. 18. EdgarManhattan 9:59 pm 03/22/2011

    Homophobic behavior by some in Athens at a particular time doesn’t "prove" that all Greeks were always homophobic. You know little of the variety of the Greek city states and the length of time they existed if you think "the Greeks" were a monolithic society.

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  19. 19. charles_tow 10:15 pm 03/22/2011

    "How can you say that counter-examples to his assertion actually support it? They are counter examples. Romantic and erotic love between Japanese samurai or Spartan warriors was not secret or hidden or seen as repugnant." first, there’s not even a single spartan writer that we know of so that’s all heresay. Um, and these expressions in Japanese samurai occurred in full view of society, women and children without any stigma the same as heteros? Somehow i find that hard to believe. anyway bering’s point after all is not that gay aduylt men weren’t having sex but that (1) doubtful it was *ever* commmon and (2) it wasn’t something to be open about. so yeah call me biased but i don’t find any of these cultural "counterexamples" at all compelling.

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  20. 20. charles_tow 10:21 pm 03/22/2011

    And I mean cmon seriously if homosexuality was so okay with ancient Greeks and all the other exampels where are all teh records of happy gay men raising kids together and living as happy families in society. just sayin.

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  21. 21. EdgarManhattan 10:55 pm 03/22/2011

    Charles, without a lot more reading and thinking than you are willing to do, your opinions will always feel like facts to you. You do not seem to be interested in actual evidence, or contemplating the possibility that you may be missing out on a lot of information. So good luck, and goodbye.

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  22. 22. charles_tow 11:03 pm 03/22/2011

    and to you. come back when you’re able to see the forest not just the trees. and thanks for ignoring my questions btw. now i’m off to read about all those prohomosexual societies of yesteryear (sarcasm) just like you recommend.

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  23. 23. ellensandbeck 5:16 pm 03/23/2011

    I am completely unconvinced that the "evidence" is proving anything at all. In order to prove that homophobia is hardwired, you would have to demonstrate that very young infants automatically recoil from homosexual men and lesbian women. The "evidence" is merely that elementary age boys, who, one must suppose, were not raised in isolation, become homophobic at a certain age. Hardwired behavior, such as fear of heights and fear of snakes, is obvious in very young babies. I am pretty sure that homophobia is not, thus, it is most likely cultural. I raised two children, one of each gender, and neither one had the slightest clue about homophobia until they started kindergarten and began hearing other kids taunt each other about being "gay." Many of our neighbors, were, in fact gay, and we were all very fond of each other. My kids did not go through a homophobic phase, even though the kid culture was quite homophobic. I must conclude that homophobia is a cultural artifact that is, in many instances, aided and abetted by familial attitudes.

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  24. 24. kimcmich 7:09 pm 03/23/2011

    Ellensandbeck,

    Apparently Mr. Bering doesn’t see the problem in simultaneously claiming that homophobia is so inherent that all children are born that yet while also claiming that homosexuality is so seductive that exposure to it at a young age will make a child gay (and hence parents have evolved to be vigilantly homophobic in response). If children are naturally and universally homophobic, why do they need to be protected from exposure to homosexual examplars? I think Bering is more comfortable conceiving the homophobia of the modern world as inevitable or necessary. To believe instead that it is merely a contingent feature of our cultural histories means confronting the crappy luck we gays had to have been born into this particular homophobic era. It calms the existential angst to instead decide that humans at all times and places have been homophobic and hence our lot is as good as we could hope for. No matter what time and place he was born, Bering seems to want to think, he would never have been able to have a public adolescent same-sex romance without scorn from society. These are things he, I, and most adult homosexuals missed-out on. To think they were denied to us merely because of the quirks of history is frustrating. So much better to believe instead that, because of fundamental aspects of human nature imbued via evolution, no one has ever really had that choice.

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  25. 25. GAry 7 8:11 pm 03/23/2011

    ,,,and of course, his theory does not address the observed incidence of homosexual behavior among non primates, such as crows.

    Rats have been shown to respond to intense crowding with homosexual behavior, psychoses and mothers eating their young. I expect homosexual behavior IS an adaptive mechanism, one which inhibits reproduction in response to limited resources, while keeping people around who can help with resource gathering and care giving of children but don’t compete by creating more offspring.

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  26. 26. EdgarManhattan 10:14 pm 03/23/2011

    I tend to doubt studies that equate homosexual behavior with cannibalism. It just seems a bit of a stretch. Since rats and mice also engage in homosexual behavior when there is NO overcrowding, I’d like to see some fact-based explanation of how the mechanisms of same-sex attraction differ in crowded and non-crowded situations, if they do indeed differ.

    Thinking of homosexual behavior as primarily a response to terrible social conditions is not borne out by the facts about homosexual behavior across species.
    It seems that a great many species, including some of our fellow primates, just enjoy it. http://www.livescience.com/1125-homosexual-animals-closet.html From bonobos to antelope to sheep to dolphins, homosexual activity is common and public.

    Researchers who do not like this fact often assign non-sexual meanings to the behavior in an attempt to pretend that it’s not really sexual – but orgasms are hard to excuse away, since they only happen after sexual arousal, and for males they produce semen, which is quite difficult for an animal to fake.

    "The rams engaged in dominance behavior", a familiar euphemism in descriptions of animal behavior, sounds awfully interpretive. If what the researcher actually saw was one ram penetrating another, who dug in his feet so that he stayed in one place until his fellow orgasmed – the evidence for "dominance behavior" rather than sexual pleasure seems to be in the researchers, rather than the ram’s, mind.

    "They do it for sexual pleasure and because they like each other" is just too simple and uncomplicated an explanation to satisfy the career requirements of Evolutionary Psychology, so E.P.s tend to come up with more complex explanations. I’m always willing to entertain their theories, if they also provide real data and rigorous studies to support them. Without good data and independently verifiable test results, their "theories" are just as valid as any story told around a campfire to entertain one’s friends.

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  27. 27. GreenMind 10:31 pm 03/23/2011

    Perhaps it will help to put the entire question into a different frame. What I say here applies to male homosexuals, not female. Think of male homosexuals as being simply non-reproductive humans, like worker bees. Then a lot of strange facts fall into place quite easily.

    First, contrary to Mr. Gallup’s unsupported assertion, there is no evidence that homosexuality is inheritable using the normal Mendelian genetics. On the contrary, there is plenty of evidence that to the extent that it is caused by maternal effect. Over twenty years ago it was discovered that birth order is a VERY strong determiner of homosexuality. The more boys occupied your mother’s womb before you, the more likely it is that you will be gay. Somehow, the environment of the womb causes it.

    This helps explain why there are still gay men even though ordinary selection pressure should eliminate it very quickly.

    It also explains why studies have shown that mothers who have gay sons tend to have more grandchildren. The reproductive advantage goes to the mother, not the gay son, so selection keeps it around.

    Here I go into speculation (which is of course a critical part of science). Since mom benefits from having gay sons, it raises the possibility that they act as "helpers at the nest," and help bring home food or resources, or protect the community in some other way. At the same time they don’t contribute to overpopulation, which would always be a danger. I would really like to see research on how gay men help their families.

    Now if gay men help their families, the question arises about why there is any dislike of them at all. In this scenario, I have my own speculation about why that is, and it has to do with the duties of a son. If the eldest son has a duty to go marry and produce heirs, then the gay sons are not needed for that. But if the older sons die, then the gay sons are needed after all. But if everyone knows they are gay, they can’t be required to do that. On the other hand if nobody knows they are gay, then they can be required to step into that role. The merciless oppression of gays might have the hidden function of making sure gays do not identify themselves, so that they can still be required to step into the role of the older sons. Evolution would keep anti-gay sentiment in the population.

    As I said, speculative. I’m not saying anything about right or wrong here. I’m just thinking about evolution could keep male homosexuality around in the face of so much selective disadvantage.

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  28. 28. zstansfi 11:07 pm 03/23/2011

    "…one of the comments on the SciAm blog argues that all of my 1995 findings could just as easily be subsumed by a simple concern about child sexual abuse. But if that were the case, then why in the third study did the level of concern about a child staying overnight at a friend’s house in the presence of the friend’s homosexual parent, flip flop as a function of whether there was a match between the sex of the child and the sex of the homosexual parent? Homosexuals don’t have a monopoly on child sexual abuse. Heterosexual matches also pose a risk of child sexual abuse!"

    The reasoning of this retort is flawed. The not-so-uncommon homophobic stereotype that exists in our society posits that homosexual individuals (unlike the average heterosexual individual) are often sexually perverse and would be likely to abuse children. This stereotype, which could as easily be socially constructed as evolutionarily based (the former being the more parsimonious explanation), does indeed provide a perfect explanation for Dr. Gallup’s findings. While such a stereotype would be expected to make a homophobic parent believe that a homosexual man might abuse male children, such a stereotype would be unlikely to suggest that such a man would abuse female children. Why should it? Are heterosexual, male pedophiles often discovered abusing girls? No! Hence, why should parents–even those who are strongly homophobic–be afraid that their children will be sexually abused by a homosexual individual who is of a different sex than the child?

    It seems to me that this entire enterprise relies on a certain bizarre form of reasoning–one which seeks to demonstrate that Dr. Gallup’s research (and evolutionary psychological research in general) provides a window into the primitive human mind, unencumbered by troublesome environmental factors like stereotypes. However, this seems to be the bane of evolutionary psychology: while the hypotheses proposed by this discipline are often highly appealing and offer broad explanatory power, the evidence provided in support of such claims is confounded by numerous alternative explanations. If ever there was a discipline in need of reorganization, this is it.

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  29. 29. way2ec 4:15 pm 03/26/2011

    Bisexuality is still not being addressed. Heritability of sexual orientation has yet to be "proven" let alone the heritability of homophobia. The data and arguments fail to separate homophobia from fear of the sexual abuse of children, especially same sex abuse. We have "data" of the self reporting kind regarding parents’ fear and or anxiety of gay men having (unsupervised) contact with male children which is then extrapolated to support an evolutionary advantage to the heritability of homophobia? Do we even have enough hard facts as to the heritability of parenting "instincts", maternal or paternal, from hominids, through all previous cultures, up through today’s cultures? We do not have enough "data" to know if sexual orientation is influenced by environment, the whole nature vs. nuture debate. And if Bering believes that he was "born gay" how does he resolve the idea that prepuberty same sex contact could influence an adult’s sexual orientation without buying into environment shapes sexual orientation, which messes up the heritability of sexual orientation let alone the heritability of homophobia. I have no doubt that homophobia is an evolutionary force, just as arranged marriages are, or celibacy as a religious vow, rape as a weapon, the breeding of slaves, and the cultural underpinnings on which they are expressed. One of the transitions to being "human" was the "invention" of "culture", we are cultural beings. Culture is transmitted through language. The fact that we can not NOT learn language, which is to say that language learning is automatic, thus culture is automatically infused into children, does NOT translate into any aspect of culture being heritable. Bering and Gallup might as well try to tease out if baby boy blue and baby girl pink play a role in what it means to be a man or a woman in this culture, let alone their future sexual orientation, and to then try and connect it to heritability and evolution? Good luck!

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  30. 30. SigmaEyes 11:43 pm 05/4/2011

    You make a reference to a 1975 source:

    "Donald Forgey: "The institution of berdache [two-spirit or queer identified native peoples] was widespread among the Plains tribes. It has been reported among such nomadic tribes as the Assiniboine, Dakota, Plains Cree, Clseyenne, Arapaho, and Crow and among such village tribes as the Mandan, Hidatsa, Omaha, Caddo, Kansa, and Pawnee. Public sentiments towards berdaches varied among the different tribes, rarlging from a neutral attitude of quiet tolerance, as among the Sioux to a positive one of great esteem, as among the Cheyenne." [See paper for citations of each example.]

    - Forgey (1975). The Institution of Berdache among the North American Plains Indians, The Journal of Sex Research 11(1): 1-15. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3811639"

    I would like to note that the Native American reference to "twin spirit" often referred to trans gendered people, who it is now known is a segment of all populations which seem to reflect the same overall ratio of heterosexuals to homosexuals as the larger, more general population. In 1975, transsexualism was considered a homosexual orientation (or mental illness at best), and not an issue of self-identity somewhat disjunctive from sexuality.

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  31. 31. aucontraire 3:47 am 09/8/2012

    All of these statistics could have sociological causes, related to the way gay and straight sexual activity is channeled into particular contexts in our society. Gay adolescents could be more likely to find themselves in dangerous situations when discovering their sexuality because homosexuality is, or has been, considered such an unspeakable deviance that it was relegated to the “other side of the tracks” as we say. Gay life was confined to sleazy bars and truck stops, and gay kids are still more likely to find themselves kicked out on the streets. These situations could account for why adult gays might be statistically more likely to have been molested. In a way this could also account for Gallup’s assertion, if true, that gay men are more likely to have sexual contact with minors; that was simply part of the gay world. If my explanations prove true, then we should expect both of those trends to decrease with the introduction of socially proper channels for homosexual contact and the new possibility of gay men being able to be out and also be respectable citizens.

    Also, I think some anthropological examples challenge Gallup’s assertion that same-sex sexual contact can imprint on one’s sexual orientation during adolescence. You say that no society has condoned adult same-sex exclusive relationships, but Gallup’s claims assert that we should be more concerned with same-sex adult-adolescent contacts; and yet in the very examples you cite (the Sambia and the ancient Greeks), that’s exactly the form that prescribed homosexual contact took. Boys in their youth would participate in homosexual activity with adults or other boys, and in their adulthood take a wife and have children. Among the Sambia, only 5% of men continue to engage in only homosexual acts, and this seems to be about the same percentage of gay men in our society. If Gallup is right, shouldn’t it be higher given the amount of homosexual activity among adolescents? And are the people of these societies just gritting their teeth and letting their kids have gay sex in spite of their own instincts? That seems somewhat unlikely to persist in any culture.

    Regarding people’s apparent discomfort with gay men having contact with children but not with themselves, couldn’t it simply be the case that with themselves they are more willing to conform to the socially prescribed PC attitudes, but with their children they are hyper vigilant and don’t want to take the chance that what they’ve heard about those people is actually true? Maybe it would be helpful to see if these attitudes differed between people who knew and had an amicable relationship with an LGBT person in their life and those who didn’t? After all, actual contact with gay people could diminish the tendency to lump them in with pedophiles. I find the anecdote Gallup offers particularly suspect. I could just as easily offer up my own anecdote; being that I’m an out gay men and have had a close relationship with my nephew since he was born 6 years ago, without either of his parents showing any worry that I would convert him to gay Dracula-style.

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