Gay Science: The Ethics of Sexual Orientation Research

By Timothy F. Murphy | Go to book overview

4 CONTROLLING THE SEXUAL ORIENTATION OF CHILDREN

As the origins of erotic interests are poorly understood, there are no means of ensuring that a child will have a given sexual orientation, though there seems to be considerable folk advice on the subject. Parents of all cultures are imbued with notions of how to influence a child's sexual orientation; these notions often involve conforming a child's behavior to cultural expectations about what it is to be a girl, to be a boy, in the belief that conformity to gender roles produces heteroeroticism in children. These notions also involve the kind of relationships children should experience. For example, as a way of preventing homoeroticism in children, Sigmund Freud cautioned against the rearing of boys by males and the emotional absorption of male or female children by a parent of either sex. 1

There is no evidence, however, that this folk wisdom offers parents unfailing control over the sexual orientation of their children. Unwanted homoerotic and paraphiliac interests--such as necrophilia and raptophilia--emerge in children and families of all kinds, contrary to all efforts at gender conformity and ideal family dynamics. There has been no shortage of commentary linking the latest findings in sexual orientation research with techniques by which parents might control the erotic lives of their own children. Extrapolating from his hormone studies with rats, Gunter Dörner once suggested that neuroendocrine-conditioned male homoeroticism can, in his words, "be prevented once and for all by a single androgen injection administered during critical [fetal] brain development."2 As Dörner believes that homoeroticism is a tragedy ending in millions of suicides, it is not surprising that he believes fetuses at risk for homosexuality should be identified through amniocentesis and that abortion would be desirable for

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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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