Gay Science: The Ethics of Sexual Orientation Research

By Timothy F. Murphy | Go to book overview

1 SCIENTIFIC ACCOUNTS OF SEXUAL ORIENTATION

Most morphological males have a dominant erotic interest in morphological females, and most morphological females have a dominant erotic interest in morphological males. This is not to say that human beings are always male or female in any uncomplicated way, for even that simple division has fluid borders in anatomy and genetics; people may be apparently male or female in anatomy but apparently the opposite in genetic endowment. Neither is it to say that those erotic interests are dictated by bodily morphology. It is merely to say that most human beings have these erotic interests and not others. Common usage designates such people as heterosexuals. There are nevertheless significant numbers of people whose sexual orientation does not fit this profile. Some males evince erotic interest only in other males and some females evince erotic interest only in other females. Common usage designates these people as homosexuals. To complicate the mix even further, some people range across both males and females as objects of erotic interest--if not simultaneously then at least serially during their lives. By default and linguistic convention, these people are bisexuals. 1

The effort to account for this cleaving of erotic interest has a long and contentious lineage. For example, there has been considerable debate about the distribution of erotic interests in a given population and also about whether the categories underlying their study make sense. Homoeroticism has been alleged, for example, to be more common in certain nations than others, and in some cases was even attributed to the climate of those places, as was the case in the last century when languid Mediterranean countries were thought given to homosexuality. In fact, homoerotic interest is not necessarily more prevalent in coun-

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