The Causes Of Male Homosexuality

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A man develops a sexual preference for women because his brain develops in a certain way. It develops in a certain way because testosterone produced^by his genetically determined testicles alter the brain inside his mother s womb in such a way that later, at puberty, it will react to testosterone again: Miss out on the genes for testicles, the testosterone burst in the womb, or the testosterone burst at puberty—any one of the three—and you will not be a typical man: Presumably, a man who develops a preference for other men is a man who has a different gene that affects how his testicles develop or a different gene that affects how his brain responds to hormones or a different learning experience during the pubertal burst of testosterone—or some combination of these:

The search for the cause of homosexuality has begun to shed a great deal of light on the way the brain develops in response to testosterone. It was fashionable until the 1960s to believe that homosexuality was entirely a matter of upbringing: But cruel Freudian aversion therapy proved incapable of changing it, and the fashion then changed to hormonal explanations. Yet adding male hormones to the blood of gay men does not make them more heterosexual; it merely makes them more highly sexed. Sexual orientation has already been fixed before adulthood: Then, in the 1960s, an East German doctor named Gunter Dorner began a series of experiments on rats which seemed to show that in the womb the male homosexual brain releases a hormone, called ,luteinizing hormone, that is more typical of female brains. Dorner, whose motives have often been questioned on the grounds that he seemed to be searching for a way to "cure " homosexuality, castrated male rats at different stages of development and injected them with female hormones: The earlier the castration, the more likely the rat was to solicit sex from other male rats. Research in Britain, America, and Germany has all confirmed that a prenatal exposure to deficiency of testosterone increases the likelihood of a man becoming homosexual. Men with an extra X chromosome and men exposed in the womb to female hormones are more likely to be gay or effeminate, and effeminate boys do indeed grow up to be gay more often than other boys: Intriguingly, men who were conceived and born in periods of great stress, such as toward the end of World War II, are more often gay than men born at other times: (The stress hormone cor-

tisol is made from the same progenitor as testosterone; perhaps it uses up the raw material, leaving less to be made into testosterone.) The same is true of rats: Homosexual behavior is more common in rats whose mothers were stressed during pregnancy. The things that male brains are usually good at gay brains are often bad at, and vice versa. Gays are also more often left-handed than heterosexuals, which makes a sort of sense because handedness is affected by sex hormones during development, but it is also odd because left-handed people are supposed to be better at spatial tasks than righthanders. This only demonstrates how sketchy our knowledge still is of the relationship between genes, hormones, brains, and skills."

It is clear, however, that the cause of homosexuality lies in some unusual balance of hormonal influence in the womb but not later on, a fact that further supports the idea that the mentality of sexual preference is affected by prenatal sex hormones. This is not incompatible with the growing evidence that homosexuality is genetically determined: The gay gene that I will discuss in the next chapter is widely expected to turn out to be a series of genes that affect the sensitivity of certain tissues to testosterone.27 It is both nature and nurture:

It is no different from genes for height: Fed on identical diets, two genetically different men will not grow to the same height: Fed on different diets, two identical twins will grow to different heights. Nature is the length of the rectangle, nurture the width. There can be no rectangle without both: The genes for height are really only genes for responding to diet by growing. i8


If homosexuality is determined by hormonal influences in the womb, then so, presumably, are heterosexual preferences. Throughout our evolutionary history, men and women have faced different sexual opportunities and constraints: For a man casual sex with a stranger carried only a small risk—infection, discovery by the wife—and a potentially enormous reward: a cheap addition of an extra child to his genetic legacy. Men who seized such opportunities certainly left behind more descendants than men who did not. Therefore, since we are by definition descended from prolific ancestors rather than barren ones, it is a fair bet that modern men possess a streak of sexual opportunism: Virtually all male mammals and birds do, even those that are mainly monogamous. This is not to say that men are irredeemably promiscuous or that every man is a potential rapist, it is just that men are more likely to be tempted by an opportunity for casual sex than women:

Women are likely to be different: Having sex with a stranger not only encumbered a Pleistocene woman with a possible pregnancy before she had won the man ' s commitment to help rear the child, but it also exposed her to probable revenge from her husband if she had one and to possible spinsterhood if she did not. These enormous risks were offset by no great reward. Her chances of conceiving were just as great if she remained faithful to one partner, and her chances of losing the child without a husband s help were greater. Therefore, women who accepted casual sex left fewer rather than more descendants, and modern women are likely to be equipped with suspicion of casual sex:

Without this evolutionary history in mind, it is impossible to explain the different sexual mentalities of men and women. It is fashionable to deny such differences and to maintain that only social repression prevents women from buying explicit pornography about men or that only socially paranoid machismo drives men to promiscuity. Yet this is to ignore the enormous social pressures now placed on men and women to disregard or minimize differences between them. A modern woman is exposed to pressure from men to be sexually uninihibited, but she is also exposed to the same pressure from other women. Likewise, men are under constant pressure to be more responsible, sensitive, and faithful—from other men as well as from women. Perhaps more out of envy than morality, men are just as censorious of philanderers as they are of women; often more so: If men are sexual predators, it is despite centuries of social pressure not to be: In the words of one psychologist, Our repressed impulses are every bit as human as the forces that repress them:""

But what exactly are the differences between men and women in their sexual mentalities? I argued in the last two chapters that men, for whom the reproductive stakes are higher, are likely to be more competitive with one another and therefore are more likely to end up wielding power, controlling wealth, and seeking fame. Consequently, women are more likely to have been rewarded for seeking power, wealth, or fame in a husband than men are in a wife. Women who did so probably left more descendants among modern women, so it follows from evolutionary thinking that women are more likely co value potential mates who are rich and powerful. Another way to look at it is to think of what a woman can most profitably seek in a husband that will increase the number and health of her children. The answer is not more sperm but more money or more cattle or more tribal allies or whatever resource counts:

A man, by contrast, is seeking a mate who will use his sperm and his money to produce babies: Consequently, he has always had an enormous incentive to seek youth and health in his mates: Those men who preferred to marry forty-year-old women rather than twenty-year-olds stood a small chance of begetting any children at all, let alone more than one or two: They also stood a large chance of inheriting a bunch of stepchildren from a previous marriage: They left fewer descendants than the men who always sought out the youngest, postpubertal females on offer: We would expect, therefore, that while women pay attention to cues of wealth and power, men pay attention to cues of health and youth.

This may seem a startlingly obvious thing to say. As Nancy Thornhill put it, Surely no one has ever seriously doubted that men desire young, beautiful women and that women desire wealthy, high-status men:"'' The answer to her question is that sociologists do doubt it. Judging by their reaction to a recent study, only the most rigorous evidence will convince them: The study was done by David Buss of the University of Michigan, who asked a large sample of American students to rank the qualities they most preferred in a mate: He found that men preferred kindness, intelligence, beauty, and youth, while women preferred kindness, intelligence, wealth, and status: He was told that this may be the case in America, but it is not a universal facet of human nature.

So he repeated the study in thirty-seven different samples from thirty-three countries, asking over one thousand people, and found exactly the same result: Men pay more attention to youth and beauty, women to wealth and status: To which came this answer: Of course women pay more attention to wealth because men control it: If women controlled wealth, they would not seek it in their spouses. Buss looked again and found that American women who make more money than the average American woman pay more attention than average to the wealth of potential spouses, not less:" High-earning women value the earning capacity of their husbands more, not less, than low-earning women: Even a survey of fifteen powerful leaders of the feminist movement revealed that they wanted still more powerful men. As Buss ' s colleague Bruce Ellis put it, Women s sexual tastes become more, rather than less, discriminatory as their wealth, power, and social status increase.'

Many of Buss s critics argued that he ignored context altogether: Different criteria of mate preference develop in different cultures at different times: To this Buss replied with a simple analogy. The amount of muscle on the average man is highly context-dependent: In the United States young men tend to be beefier about the shoulders than in Britain, perhaps partly because they eat better food and perhaps partly because their sports emphasize throwing strength rather than agility: Yet this does not negate the generalization that men have more muscle on their shoulders than women. " So, too, the fact that women pay more attention to men ' s wealth in one place than in another does not negate the generalization that women pay more attention to the wealth of potential mates than men do."

The main difficulty with Buss s study is that it fails to distinguish between a partner chosen as a spouse and a partner chosen for a fling: Douglas Kenrick of Arizona State University asked a group of students to rank various attributes of potential mates according to four levels of intimacy: When seeking a marriage partner, intelligence is important to both sexes: When seeking a sexual partner for a one-night stand, intelligence matters much less, especially to men: There is little doubt that people of both sexes are sensible enough to value kindness, compatibility, and wit in those with whom they may spend the rest of their lives."

The difficulty with measuring sexual preferences is that they are compromises: An aging ugly man does not mate with several young and beautiful women (unless he is very rich indeed). He settles for a faithful wife of the same age. A young woman does not mate faithfully with a wealthy tycoon. She chooses whatever is available, probably a slightly older man with no more money but a steady job: People lower their expectations according to their age, looks, and wealth: To discover just how different the sexual mentalities of men and women are, it is necessary to do a controlled experiment. Take an average man and an average women and give each the option of faithful marriage to a familiar partner or continual orgies with beautiful strangers. The experiment has not been done, and it is hard to imagine its getting a grant. But it need not be, for it is in effect possible to do exactly that experiment by looking inside people ' s heads and examining their fantasies:

Bruce Ellis and Don Symons gave 307 California students a questionnaire about their sexual fantasies. Had their subjects been Arabs or English people, the study would have been easily dismissed by social scientists because any sex differences that emerged could be attributed to social pressures from a sexist background. But there can be no people on Earth or in history so steeped in the politically correct ideology that there are no psychological sex differences as students at a university in California: Any differences that emerged could therefore be regarded as conservative estimates for the species as a whole.

Ellis and Symons found that two things showed no sex differences at all. The first was the students attitudes toward their fantasies. Guilt, pride, and indifference were each as common among men as among women: And both sexes had a clear image of their fantasized partner s face during the fantasy. On every other measure there were substantial differences between the men and the women: Men had more sexual fantasies and fantasized about more partners. One in three men said they fantasized about more than one thousand partners in their lives; only 8 percent of women imagined so many partners. Nearly half the women said they never switch partners during a sexual fantasy; only 12 percent of men never switch: Visual images of the partner(s) were more important for men than touching, the partner s response, or any feelings and emotions: The reverse was true of women, who were more likely to focus on their own responses and less likely to focus on the partner. Women overwhelmingly fantasized about sex with a familiar partner:"

These results are not alone: Every other study of sexual fantasy has concluded that male sexual fantasies tend to be more ubiquitous, frequent, visual, specifically sexual, promiscuous, and active: Female sexual fantasies tend to be more contextual, emotive, intimate, and passive."' Nor need we rely on such surveys alone. Two industries relentlessly exploit the sexual fantasizing of men and women: pornography and the publishing of romance novels: Pornography is aimed almost entirely at men. It varies little from a standard formula all over the world: "Soft porn consists of pictures of naked or seminaked women in provocative positions: Such pictures are arousing to men, whereas pictures of naked (anonymous) men are not especially arousing to women: "A propensity to be aroused merely by the sight of males would promote random matings from which a female would have nothing to gain reproduc-tively and a great deal to lose. " "

"Hard porn, " which depicts actual acts of sex, is almost invariably about the gratification of male lust by willing, easily aroused, varied, multiple, and physically attractive women (or men, in the case of gay porn): It is virtually devoid of context, plot, flirtation, courtship, and even much foreplay. There are no encumbering relationships, and the coupling duo are usually depicted as strangers: When two scientists showed heterosexual students pornographic films and measured their arousal by them, they found a consistent pattern of the kind common sense would suggest. First, men were more aroused than women. Second, men were aroused more by depictions of group sex than by films of a heterosexual couple, whereas for women it was the other way around. Third, women and men were both aroused by lesbian scenes, but neither was aroused by male homosexual sex. (Remember, all these students were heterosexual:) When watching pornography, men and women are both interested in the women actors. But porn is designed for, marketed to, and sought out by men, not women:"

The romance novel, by contrast, is aimed entirely at a female market. It, too, depicts a fictional world that has changed remarkably little except in adapting to female career ambitions and to a less inhibited attitude toward the description of sex. Authors adhere strictly to a formula provided by the publishers. Sexual acts play a small part in these novels; the bulk of each book is about love, commitment, domesticity, nurturing, and the formation of relationships. There is little promiscuity or sexual variety, and what sex there is, is described mainly through the heroine s emotional reaction CO what is done to her—particularly the tactile things— and not to any detailed description of the man s body. His character is often discussed in detail but not his body:

Ellis and Symons claim that the romance novel and pornography represent the respective utopian fantasies of the two sexes. Their data on the sexual fantasies of California students would seem to support this contention: So does the repeated failure of magazines that try to repackage the male-porn formula for women (much of Playgirl s readership is gay men), plus the burgeoning business of selling explicit novels about promiscuous sex at airports—for men: In any bookstore there are magazines for men with pictures of women on the covers, promising more inside, and magazines for women with pictures of women on the covers, promising hints about improving relationships inside. There are romance novels aimed at women with pictures of women on the covers and sexy novels aimed at men with pictures of women on the covers. The publishing industry, living by the market, not the prevailing ideology, has no doubts about the differences between men and women ' s attitudes toward sex.

As Ellis and Symons put it,

The data on sexual fantasy reported here, the scientific literature on sexual fantasy, . : : the consumer-driven selective forces of a free market (which have shaped the historically stable contrasts between male-oriented pornography and female-oriented romance novels), the ethnographic record on human sexuality, and the ineluctable implications of an evolutionary perspective on our species, taken together, imply the existence of a profound sex difference in sexual psychology:"

This is a far more enlightened view than the peculiarly uncharitable assumption among the politically correct that the reason women are not more turned on by nudity and pornography is that they are repressed:

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