Gay Science: The Ethics of Sexual Orientation Research

By Timothy F. Murphy | Go to book overview
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When asked whether he thought genetic sexual orientation research would be of benefit to people coming to grips with homoerotic identity, psychiatrist Richard Pillard said that "one thing I think it will do is get psychiatrists away from trying to convert sexual orientation."1 While the practice of sexual orientation therapy is minimal in North America and developed Western countries, there is no reason to think it will ever entirely disappear as a matter of clinical and public interest. Around the world and in the United States there continue to be practitioners and advocates of sexual orientation therapy. 2 Until it dosed in 1994, for example, the Masters and Johnson Institute in St. Louis was the most well known clinic offering a reorientation program for men dissatisfied with their homoerotic orientation. Other programs have filled the void left by the closure of that clinic, some of them fueled by longtime advocates of sexual orientation therapy, others promoted by therapists newer to the field. In addition to offering views about the relationship between society and homosexuality, psychiatrist Charles Socarides continues to advocate sexual reorientation therapy. 3 Some religious groups now sponsor programs they believe will help both men and women abandon their homoerotic interests and identities. Because sexual orientation therapy is not reported to data-collecting agencies, it is difficult to know to what extent it is currently practiced, though it is clear that there are both practitioners and clients to be found in psychiatric, psychological, and religious fields.

Given that interest in controlling sexual orientation has not altogether disappeared, it is little wonder that other commentators are less optimistic than Pillard about the impact of sexual orientation research. These commentators


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