Gay Science: The Ethics of Sexual Orientation Research

By Timothy F. Murphy | Go to book overview

6 SEXUAL ORIENTATION RESEARCH, NATURE, AND THE LAW

Contemporary biological studies of homoerotic sexual orientation have received an almost schizophrenic social reception. On the one hand, these reports have evoked durable worry that discovery of any biological components of sexual orientation will be used prejudicially against gay men and lesbians in programs of discrimination and diminishment. On the other hand, Simon LeVay, for one, believes that this research works to advance the moral and social prospects of gay people. LeVay says that biological research shows that being gay is a natural behavior and, therefore, something that one can accept in oneself and other people. 1 This kind of enthusiasm about the meaning of biological sexual orientation research is shared by some gay legal advocates who see important implications in the domain of the law, for example, in civil rights that depend on fundamental interests or immutable characteristics. 2

A bifurcated reception of sexual orientation research is not new to this era. Lillian Faderman has pointed out that biomedical research on gay people in the early part of this century divided opinion in the emerging U.S. lesbian community. 3 Some lesbians of that era embraced that research with enthusiasm, finding in it an explanation for their erotic interests and a locus for themselves in nature. They were at least favorably enough disposed to the science to participate as subjects in research. It was also a gay man who set in motion Evelyn Hooker's psychological study of gay men. 4 At the very least, sexological research had the effect of publicizing the widespread existence of men and women with homoerotic interests, which was to the advantage of gay people looking to learn more about themselves. These interpretations were not universally shared, of course, and many women and men either rejected biomedical characterizations

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Gay Science: The Ethics of Sexual Orientation Research
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Scientific Accounts of Sexual Orientation 13
  • 2 - The Value of Sexual Orientation Research 49
  • 3 - The Practice of Sexual Orientation Therapy 75
  • 4 - Controlling the Sexual Orientation of Children 103
  • 5 - The Use of Sexual Orientation Tests 137
  • 6 - Sexual Orientation Research, Nature, and the Law 165
  • 7 - Science and the Future 193
  • Epilogue 223
  • Notes 231
  • Index 259
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