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April 21, 2011 4:35 PM   Subscribe

What scientific research has been done on the science of gay attraction and sexuality?

I watched a 60min. "Science of Attraction" doc on Netflix-- from Nova or The History Channel or something-- about how (heterosexual) attraction is wired into the brain, mostly in relation to procreation.

It discussed and documented experiments concerning pheromones, waist-to-hip ratio, pitch of female's voice during ovulation, and other sub-conscious cues related to (heterosexual) attraction and.. mating, essentially.

Over the next few days, I found it really interesting to notice that it seemed to ring true really well on a handful of specific points. Then I realized that it succeeded in doing so for me because it spoke explicitly, and exclusively, to my background on the matter.

Have the scientists gotten around to explaining much about same-sex attraction and sexuality from a biological standpoint, or are we not there yet?

Googlewebz can't tell what I'm asking for.
posted by herbplarfegan to Science & Nature (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

"Gaydar" was studied (and confirmed).
posted by mnemonic at 5:43 PM on April 21, 2011

I culled the only result I found on Google Scholar when searching for "gay attraction and sexuality heromones, waist-to-hip ratio, pitch of female's voice during ovulation, and other sub-conscious cues" was a hot pink book called "Do Gentlemen Really Prefer Blondes?: Bodies, Behavior, and Brains--The Science Behind Sex, Love, & Attraction."

If you do a search on this google book for "gay," you will find 16 results. A lot of these results reference studies that are relevant to your question. The first one I found using this method is "Preference for Human Body Odors Is Influenced by Gender and Sexual Orientation."
posted by aniola at 6:01 PM on April 21, 2011

Er, I was going to cull the result for the studies that I found in the results, but it looks like a bit of a project.
posted by aniola at 6:09 PM on April 21, 2011

Mod note: question isn't anonymous, non-answers can go directly to the OP thanks
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:35 PM on April 21, 2011

Best answer: Daryl Bem, a psychologist at Cornell, has an "Exotic Becomes Erotic" theory of sexual orientation here. Sort of more developmental than biological, though...
posted by leedly at 6:50 PM on April 21, 2011

I have found studies on gay animals to be quite interesting in this realm, and certainly, I believe these studies lend much credence to the argument for homosexuality being a biological and/or genetic occurrence.

One study highlighted here. (But, there are many more.)
posted by AlliKat75 at 7:56 PM on April 21, 2011

(self-link alert: I edited the revised edition of this book) but Dr. C.A. Tripp's 1975 work The Homosexual Matrix (now re-titled The Sexual Matrix) was among the first non-pathologizing comprehensive reviews of gay attraction. It's interesting as a piece of history, as it still incorporates a lot of the stereotypes about LGBTQ folks, in trying to present a message that was comprehensible to middle America in the 70s.

Also, Alfred Kinsey's landmark works were among the first to study homosexuality, bisexuality, etc. The Kinsey Institute at Indiana University has a bunch of resources you might find interesting as well.
posted by Jon_Evil at 9:05 PM on April 21, 2011

(reposted from another thread)

You might be interested in a book I'm reading, The Origins and Role of Same-sex Relations in Human Societies, by James Neill. The argument in the book is the most profound and insightful illumination of homosexuality I've ever encountered. Neill argues that human same-sex behavior is our inheritance from the animal kingdom, that it has always served a supportive role among social creatures, that humans--like most animals--are naturally ambisexual, and that it is only dominant western culture over the past couple of thousand years which has obscured this fact and led to much neurosis.

Essentially, there is nothing to explain about homosexuality except when it is absent.
posted by General Tonic at 7:01 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Here's an interview with the author I mentioned above, in which he says:

. . . the modern Western conception of sexuality, what I call the heterosexual myth, has distorted the way we perceive sexuality. Looking from the perspective of the broad range of human societies around the world and throughout history, in which diversity of sexual expression and variability in orientation was common, it would be more accurate to say that in the post-Medieval Western world ambisexuality became “non-normalised”.
posted by General Tonic at 7:10 AM on April 22, 2011

A study found that "homophobia is apparently associated with homosexual arousal that the homophobic individual is either unaware of or denies."
posted by exogenous at 11:01 AM on April 22, 2011

Response by poster: Fantastic. That'll probably be enough to waste this work day utterly.
(which is all I ask for) ;)

Hmmm... so my geighbors have better social skills than most people I know because they're not hindered by the neurotic western culturedom... that makes complete sense.

But doesn't it follow, in that case, that either of us, not identifying as bisexual, is suppressing one thing or another?


& that's more or less rhetorical here; ongoing discussion as it may/may not be-- I'm off to the readin's.

On preview:
A study found that "homophobia is apparently associated with homosexual arousal that the homophobic individual is either unaware of or denies."

I've always found this logic suspect-- seems like it could often be more complicated than that; then again, I've never had conscious inklings to either homosexual arousal or homophobia, so... no substantial refute on my part, and, as with all the other links here, thanks for 'filtering, y'all.
posted by herbplarfegan at 11:18 AM on April 22, 2011

Response by poster: er.. that is.. doing what the hive does and "filtering" the noise-void for relevant answers. (don't know if that term applies thusleh on Ask)
posted by herbplarfegan at 11:24 AM on April 22, 2011

I've always found this logic suspect

You can read the full paper for yourself (PDF). The Abstract describes their methodology:
Participants consisted of a group of homophobic men (n = 35) and a group of nonhomophobic men (n = 29); they were assigned to groups on the basis of their scores on the Index of Homophobia ....
The men were exposed to sexually explicit erotic stimuli consisting of heterosexual, male homosexual, and lesbian videotapes, and changes in penile circumference were monitored. ...
Both groups exhibited increases in penile circumference to the heterosexual and female homosexual videos. Only the homophobic men showed an increase in penile erection to male homosexual stimuli.

posted by exogenous at 11:26 AM on April 22, 2011

Best answer: But doesn't it follow, in that case, that either of us, not identifying as bisexual, is suppressing one thing or another?

Not exactly.

Neill's argument is that humans (and primates, and mammals, etc) are essentially wired to be "sexual." This sexuality is honed and attenuated within individuals by their experiences and the demands of their social setting, allowing for great flexibility between individuals, times and populations. (Among giraffes and bottlenose dolphins, MOST observed sexual behavior is between members of the same sex. This was also true for some human tribal societies before colonial missionaries brought them the gift of sex shame.)

He uses the term ambisexual, rather than bisexual, to emphasize the innate CAPACITY for erotic response to a wide variety of stimuli, including members of whichever sex. Your actual preferences may vary depending on century, milieu, and courage.
posted by General Tonic at 11:54 AM on April 22, 2011

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