In Outing The TRUTH About Sexual Orientation I show why the sense of being male or female is not an either/or scenario, but instead occurs on a spectrum influenced by the separate dimensions of masculinity and femininity. For the most part, the sense of being male or female aligns with biological sex, due to a male hormone wash of the fetal brain guiding brain development in a male direction, and the absence of this event resulting in female brain development. For example, young boys in a playground are almost always more aggressive engaging in rough and tumble play, to the astonishment of many parents not believing in biological influences. However, this process does not always work perfectly, and the range of masculine and feminine traits a person has can influence their sense of being male or female. As transgender relates to sexual orientation, I suggest using gender identity as an anchor for homoerotic and heteroerotic behavior. For instance, a female gender identity and sexual fantasy or behavior focused on females equates with homoerotic, while sexual fantasy or behavior focused on males is heteroerotic. In the case of an individual feeling they are both gender identities, the term bi-erotic might apply.
Homosexual and heterosexual categories seem real and we identify with one or the other, or both if bisexual. In Outing The TRUTH About Sexual Orientation it is revealed why these sexual orientation identities are false, only somewhat approximating what actually transpires. We have created homosexuality and heterosexuality as identities, and then wonder how homosexuality not leading to reproduction could ever have evolved, the evolutionary paradox. It turns out that our two favorite sexual orientation designations have only existed for a few hundred years or so! People prior to this time did not see sexual orientation in the same way. For example, the ancient Greeks and also Romans focused on the active and passive role pertaining to penetration, and also the value of beauty whether same-sex or other-sex. Considering that humans have existed for about 200,000 years, homosexuality and heterosexuality have only been around for a fraction of 1% of that time! Yes, that is the reality, and the reality in regards to sexual orientation is separate homoerotic and heteroerotic dimensions motivating distinct behaviors. We have incorrectly shifted sexual orientation from flexible behaviors to inflexible identities. By doing so we have created a massively neurotic scenario in terms of anxiety and self-loathing when fantasy or actual behavior contrasts with one’s sexual orientation identity, and fueled sexual orientation discrimination by creating clear out-group and in-group distinctions. Sexologists struggle and fail to explain how an entity we created—homosexuality—evolved, when separate homoerotic and hetereorotic dimensions eliminate the evolutionary paradox, given that homoerotic behavior does not impact on heteroerotic behavior, and the converse! Let’s start thinking then in terms of sexual orientation behaviors and not identities.
It has been said that the mind is our main sexual organ, and this appears to transpire via erotic fantasy. In apparent contrast to all other species, erotic fantasy actually comprises an additional layer to human sexuality, beyond behavior. Research has found that people who engage in erotic fantasy, even during intercourse, tend to be healthier sexually! As pertains to sexual orientation, erotic fantasy is a major force activating the homoerotic and heteroerotic dimensions. When we fantasize about a sexual encounter, real or wished for, the relevant dimension is activated. For example, if a person who typically identifies with being “heterosexual” has a homoerotic fantasy, that sexual orientation dimension is activated. Read, Outing The TRUTH About Sexual Orientation, to learn why erotic fantasy is the main activator of sexual orientation dimensions, and discover the profound role that it plays in motivating a wide range of sexual behaviors.
Homoerotic and heteroerotic sexual orientation dimensions are not static entities, but dynamic and fluid ones, aligning with how sexual orientation behavior can vary in any individual. A key to the dynamic nature is activation and deactivation of sexual orientation dimensions: Certain triggers and circumstances can activate either the homoerotic or heteroerotic dimension. For example, a person who identifies with being “homosexual” based on a high homoerotic motivation and significantly lower heteroerotic motivation, can be motivated to engage in heteroerotic behavior upon encountering an other-sex partner they really like and bond to, in part perhaps based on a desire to have children. Sexual orientation dimension activation can explain other puzzling behavior, such as why homoerotic behavior increases in same-sex settings: For purposes of alliance formation, tension reduction, reconciliation, and even just sexual pleasure, the presence of same-sex individuals only can activate the homoerotic dimension. Deactivation of sexual orientation dimensions can transpire in certain circumstances, as with sexual abuse, although ironically activation can also occur with sexual abuse, accounting for why sexualization of behavior is one of the most common outcomes in this scenario. Outing The TRUTH About Sexual Orientation is the first book to present the influence of activation and deactivation of sexual orientation dimensions by sexual abuse and other circumstances.
These days the term “evidence-based medicine” is tossed around to the point where it loses any meaning. In conversations about virtually any topic in psychiatry and clinical psychology, the term spills out as a knee-jerk, or more appropriately, mouth-jerk, reaction. The speaker seems to feel that he or she has stated something profound. Meanwhile, those expressing it rarely consider the quality of the evidence that medicine is based on. In areas of medicine where there are hard endpoints such as blood pressure, research by the pharmaceutical industry itself reveals 80% of even top tier lab results are false, and these appear in top medical journal. In psychiatry and clinical psychology, with very soft endpoints such as points on a rating scale, the bias can be far worse. In psychology generally a crisis exists, whereby even top results are not being replicated. In psychiatry, largely due to the capture of the discipline by the pharmaceutical industry, antidepressants results have been presented in a very biased fashion suggesting that they largely suffice for depression and anxiety; forget about psychotherapy. More objective investigations have revealed that the positive impact is far less, such as only 52% of studies showing a benefit. Theory applied to psychiatry and clinical psychology can anticipate and rectify much of the bias that plagues these disciplines, such as showing why combined treatment with medications and psychotherapy is likely to work better, and demonstrating solid mechanisms to diverse psychotherapies, not just a specific type. In the, A Conflicted World: Research Bias chapter of At The Tipping Point: How To Save Us From Self-Destruction, I apply solid theory to demonstrate the extensive bias in psychiatry and clinical psychology, and indicate how we can shift to truly objective evidence based medicine!
Assuming that homoerotic behavior as a dimension characterizes humans and many animal species, there must be an evolutionary based reason for it: Nature does not waste resources, and hence if a template for a behavioral propensity has evolved in numerous species there must be benefits. Research presented in Outing The TRUTH About Sexual Orientation has shown multiple benefits for homoerotic behavior varying over different species including:
-Proceptivity enhancement, meaning that homoerotic stimulation assists the individual in heteroerotic sex.
-Receptivity reduction whereby the stimulated partner wastes sexual energy, leaving more reproductive opportunities for the initiator of this strategy.
-Greater success in defending a nest or territory, necessary for successful rearing of offspring.
-Expression of sexual receptivity in females.
-Dominance assertion involving the communicating of dominant-submissive relationship standing.
-Practice for heterosexual copulation.
Research focusing on primates reveals that alliance formation, tension reduction, and reconciliation stand out for these species, and presumably humans. For example, same-sex contact increases in same-sex settings such as prisons and boarding schools, to foster protective alliances, and also ease tensions and reconcile conflicts. Heteroerotic contact can also provide these benefits, and of course it fosters reproduction.
We love to set up discrete categories to simplify information processing, whereas natural events tend to occur in a continuous fashion as a spectrum. Homosexuality and heterosexuality are yet another installment of our propensity to create discrete entities. Alfred Kinsey way back in the 1950’s accurately described how we set up sexual orientation as discrete entities, whereas it is a spectrum. He placed homosexuality and heterosexuality on opposite poles of the same spectrum, capturing the continuous nature. Unfortunately, this particular arrangement fails to capture the true nature of sexual orientation, because homosexuality and heterosexuality trade off against each other, meaning that bisexuals represented by the mid-section must be less hetero than heterosexuals and less homo than homosexuals, when bisexuals frequently have robust motivations of both forms. What makes sense and is described in the Dimensions Of Sexual Orientation chapter of Outing the TRUTH About Sexual Orientation, is separate homoerotic and heteroerotic dimensions: Bisexuals have robust motivations for both behavioral propensities, “heterosexuals” heteroerotic >> homoerotic motivation, and “homosexuals” homoerotic >> heteroerotic motivation. It makes sense and aligns with how nature favors continuums, but many still prefer to see discrete homosexual and heterosexual categories that really only contribute to the disorientation of sexual orientation!
Can animals be “gay?” It probably would not make for a Disney movie, but indeed numerous species demonstrate homoerotic behavior. Insects, other invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians, fish, birds, land and marine mammals, and primate species clearly engage in homoerotic behavior. A key here is the term “homoerotic behavior,” as opposed to a way of life or identity: These species also engage in heteroerotic behavior with almost no examples of strictly “gay” behavior (really only about 8% of domesticated male sheep). Even animals we consider very masculine, such as male lions, engage in homoerotic behavior; there goes our comfortable stereotypes. Indeed, the more that researchers look with an open mind, the more species they discover that engage in homoerotic behavior! What this means is that templates for homoerotic behavior were well established in the animal kingdom long before humans came along and invented “homosexuality.” Ah, maybe the issue is not homosexuality, but instead homoerotic behavior. See the Animal Homosexuality chapter of Outing The TRUTH About Sexual Orientation to learn more about homoerotic behavior in animals.
Although seemingly more promising than psychological theories, biologically based ones struggle to explain sexual orientation. While hormones can influence masculine and feminine behavior, they do not show any clear impact on sexual orientation; it is important to appreciate that gender role inversion is not linked to homosexuality. Based on early research, brain structures and namely the hypothalamus, possibly underlie homosexuality, but none has stood up to repeated research. Then there is the possibility of “gay” genes that has also come up empty handed. Biological explanations have been proposed to explain the evolutionary paradox: How could homosexuality not leading to reproduction ever have evolved? These theories often take the perspective that even though the reproductive success of gay men (they do not consider gay females) is diminished, the reproductive success of relatives is enhanced. For example, gay men by being altruistic help relatives succeed. Really? There is absolutely no evidence that gay men are more altruistic than the average person, and we can all think of gay men we know who are as selfish as the rest of us. Another evolutionary perspective is that “gay” genes (recall none identified) assist the man in being a better parent, such as being more nurturing. Beyond diminishing the “masculine” father role, this approach entails gender role inversion found to be false. Biological perspectives then end up no better than psychological ones at explaining homosexuality (see the Biological Theories chapter of Outing The TRUTH About Sexual Orientation), strongly suggesting that we are way off the mark in assuming that homosexuality is a real entity.
Attempts to explain homosexuality from a psychological perspective have primarily consisted of psychoanalytic and social learning. Psychoanalytic theories focus on sex role inversion, whereby a child identifies with the gender role of the other sex parent, and acquires the attraction pattern of that parent: A male identifies with his mother’s gender and develops attraction to males, and a female identifies with her father’s gender and develops attraction to females. A rejecting father and often overly dominant mother were often seen as the cause of sex role inversion for males. One of the fatal flaws of this perspective is that sexual orientation and gender role are not linked despite what people think. In other words, very “macho” men and feminine females often identify with being homosexual. Another flaw is that research supporting these theories was highly biased. Social learning theories argue that characteristics of the social environment form sexual orientation based on reinforcement and punishment effects. Hence, if a male child’s social environment reinforces feminine behavior, then the child will become homosexual. Note the role inversion aspect. None of these psychological theories has proven valid for gender identity or sexual orientation. An interesting path analysis by Bell, Weinberg, and Hammersmith (1981) examined all hypothesized paths based on psychological theories to homosexuality, and found essentially zero support for these theories! A more detailed look at these theories and the path analysis can be found in the Psychological Theories chapter of Outing The TRUTH About Sexual Orientation.