What does the science REALLY say about sexuality?

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, and asexual discussion
Post Reply
User avatar
Haven
Guru
Posts: 1803
Joined: Sun Jan 12, 2014 8:23 pm
Location: Tremonton, Utah
Has thanked: 70 times
Been thanked: 51 times
Contact:

What does the science REALLY say about sexuality?

Post #1

Post by Haven »

This is a repost of a thread over in science and religion. I thought it would be interesting to discuss it here, where it won't simply turn into another anti-gay debate:
[color=darkviolet]Haven[/color] wrote:
Recently there's been a blizzard of homosexuality threads on this forum, each asking a slightly different question about the relation of sexual orientation to genetics and other biological factors.

As someone who researches this on an academic level, I can tell you that professional scientists are just as divided as many posters on this forum about the ultimate "cause" of sexual orientation (homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, and so on).

First, it's important to note that many researchers feel that investigating the cause of sexual orientation is inherently unethical, because it takes religious right arguments seriously and contributes to the marginalization of people with minority sexualities. If a non-genetic cause were found to be primary, religious right groups could use that as a tool to oppress lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) people. I happen to agree with these researchers; while it's interesting to know what makes someone gay, straight, or bi, the ultimate cause of one's orientation should be socially irrelevant: a person should be treated with dignity and respect no matter what causes their sexuality.

With that said, there are some consensus views in the recent scientific literature (since 2010) about the causes of sexual orientation:

1. Sexual orientation (whether homosexual, heterosexual, or bisexual) is not a choice (Wang et al. 2012).

2. Homosexuality and bisexuality are not caused by childhood sexual or physical abuse, although there may be a higher incidence of childhood abuse among LGB people (Roberts, Glyman, & Koenen 2013; Bailey, Ellingson, and Bailey 2014; Zietsch et al. 2011).

3. There are likely some genetic and some prenatal hormonal factors in determining sexual orientation. (Jordan-Young 2012; Wang et al. 2015; Sanders et al. 2015)

References:

Bailey, Drew H., Jarrod M. Ellingson, and J. Michael Bailey. "Genetic confounds in the study of sexual orientation: Comment on Roberts, Glymour, and Koenen (2014)." Archives of sexual behavior 43, no. 8 (2014): 1675-1677.

Jordan-Young, Rebecca M. "Hormones, context, and “brain gender�: a review of evidence from congenital adrenal hyperplasia." Social Science & Medicine 74, no. 11 (2012): 1738-1744.

Roberts, Andrea L., M. Maria Glymour, and Karestan C. Koenen. "Does maltreatment in childhood affect sexual orientation in adulthood?." Archives of sexual behavior 42, no. 2 (2013): 161-171.

Sanders, A. R., E. R. Martin, G. W. Beecham, S. Guo, K. Dawood, G. Rieger, J. A. Badner et al. "Genome-wide scan demonstrates significant linkage for male sexual orientation." Psychological medicine 45, no. 07 (2015): 1379-1388.

Wang, Binbin, Sirui Zhou, Fuchang Hong, Jing Wang, Xiaoli Liu, Yumao Cai, Feng Wang, Tiejian Feng, and Xu Ma. "Association analysis between the tag SNP for sonic hedgehog rs9333613 polymorphism and male sexual orientation." Journal of andrology 33, no. 5 (2012): 951-954.

Zietsch, Brendan P., Karin JH Verweij, Andrew C. Heath, Pamela AF Madden, Nicholas G. Martin, Elliot C. Nelson, and Michael T. Lynskey. "Do shared etiological factors contribute to the relationship between sexual orientation and depression?." Psychological medicine 42, no. 03 (2012): 521-532.
Discussion question: What does the science really say about the origins of sexual orientation? Is there any evidence that homosexuality is a choice?
♥ Haven (she/her) ♥
♥ Kindness is the greatest adventure ♥

User avatar
Divine Insight
Savant
Posts: 18080
Joined: Thu Jun 28, 2012 10:59 pm
Location: Here & Now
Been thanked: 14 times

Re: What does the science REALLY say about sexuality?

Post #2

Post by Divine Insight »

Haven wrote: Discussion question: What does the science really say about the origins of sexual orientation? Is there any evidence that homosexuality is a choice?
I personally question the validity of the social and psychological "sciences", especially with regard to treating them in the same way as the physical sciences such as physics and chemistry. Even the science of biology has become blurry due to the fact that biological systems can become so complex that making concrete or absolute statements about such complex systems becomes questionable.

I do support the biological sciences in terms of the more elementary things that can be said. For example, it's clear how DNA and genetics work on the molecular level. It's also clear that this process explains the mechanisms of evolution. We can also see that the biological sciences are very good at explaining many of the simpler disease conditions. It has been very successful in explaining how viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens work. It has even been quite successful in providing cures and preventions for many of these types of biological mechanism.

I also agree that the biological science of Genetics has been extremely successful in explaining many different things from how and why various traits are inherited from parents. It has also been quite successful in explaining genetic birth defects, and various conditions that can obviously be traced to purely genetic causes.

Having said all of the above, I still highly question just how far this type scientific methodology can go. It would seem to me that to jump to the conclusion that just because the science of biology and genetics has been so successful in relatively simple cases that this means that it can be safely applied to extremely complex situations simply doesn't follow.

This is not to say that there may exist some cases where something as complex as sexual orientation could be traced to genetic make up. However, I very strongly reject the idea that this science is so "simple" or "complete" that it can be used to make blanket statements about the origins of sexual orientation for all individuals in general.

I also believe that biologist have also discovered with a very high degree of certainty that nurture and development of both a fetus, and a young child, can have a profound effect on the wiring of their brain, and thus the way they think and perceive that world. So it would seem to me that the Biological Community itself would flat-out reject the notion that sexual-orientation could be determined to be caused by genetics alone, especially in general for all individuals.

So having said all of the above, I don't believe that science is in any position to say with any degree of certainty precisely what might cause sexual orientation in any given individual. I think at best all they can really say is that genetics can indeed play a role, as can fetal development, and that even post-birth development can play a role as well.

It seems to me that biological and psychological studies have already suggested that all three of these factors can play a role in how something as complex as a human being develops to become a fully functional adult.

~~~~~

Having addressed the question of science I would now like to focus on the second question you've asked:

Please note that my response to this question is primarily my own personal opinions, although I think it should also be clear that many things I am suggesting here should be fairly obvious based on the social behaviors of humans we see around us.
Haven wrote: Discussion question: Is there any evidence that homosexuality is a choice?
I would say that there is definitely evidence that homosexuality is a choice in some cases. I would also suggest that there is definitely evidence that homosexuality is definitely not a choice in other cases.

Cases where homosexuality is obviously a choice:

I might add here quickly that this is not strict "homosexuality" but clearly homosexuality is involved in this situation:

It seems to me that there exist quite a few individuals who claim to be "bi-sexuality oriented". And by this they simply mean that sexual-orientation is not the major factor they consider when deciding whether or not to become physically intimate with another person.

They argue that they simply aren't hung-up on sexual orientations at all. Instead they are far more interested in compatibility on other levels, such as personality, intellectual compatibility, common interests, compassion, love, etc.

In other words, they find themselves attracted to a "person" (without any judgments or bias concerning the gender or sex of the person they are attracted to). If they happen to find this other person to be attractive and compatible in ways they deem to be important in life, and the other person feels the same way about them, then any sexual intimacy that might follow from that is secondary and irrelevant to these other more important commonalities and compatibility.

They suggest that they should have the right to "choose" to be with the partner of their choice without being condemned by the rest of society just because they happen to both be of the same sex.

So in this case we end up with what "appears" to be a homosexual couple, but where sexual orientation itself played almost no role at all. On the contrary, that's the very last thing that was even considered in this case. It simply wasn't deemed to be an important enough factor to override the more important qualities and traits I had described above.

In this case "homosexuality" is indeed a choice. These people might have been able to find a suitable mate of the same sex, but that just never happened, so they went with the mutual attraction they did discover to be real for both of them.

I totally respect the right of people to freely choose who they would like to become intimate with and who they would like to share their lives with even if it is a free choice on their part. After all, why should they not be free to chose to be with whomever they desire?


Cases where homosexuality is obviously not a choice:

I think we also see clear examples where there are people who claim to be only sexually attracted to people of their own sex. They claim that they have no choice in this matter.

My question is, "Why call these people liars?"

In fact, what on earth would their motivation be for lying about this if it wasn't true?

Clearly these people are sexually attracted to people of their own sex and don't have any choice in the matter. As a heterosexual person why should I question this? I feel the same way about my heterosexual desires. I don't choose to be attracted only to women. It's simply the only thing that sexually excites me. Even if I met a man that I was totally compatible with in every other aspect of life, I would still have no desire to become sexually intimate with him. At best I could only consider him a really good platonic friend.

So why would someone even bother to claim to be "homosexuality oriented" without choice if it wasn't true?

It just makes absolutely no sense at all. Therefore I see no reason to question the truth value of anyone who claims that they cannot chose their sexual orientation.

Whether this is genetic, or due to fetal development, or even due to post-birth development makes no difference to me. What's the difference how they came to be who they are? They are who they are, why not just accept them for who they are?

Summary of my views on whether or not homosexuality is a choice:

To begin with, it doesn't matter to me whether it's a choice or not. I believe that people should indeed be free to chose who they want to become intimate with. It's none of my business in any case.

Secondly, I see absolutely no reason to question anyone's claim that they have no choice in their sexual-orientation desires. I certainly don't seem to have any choice in mine, so why should I question other people who claim to have no choice in theirs?

And finally, I don't understand why people give other people such a hard time over sexual orientation. It seems like nothing more than hate mongering to me.

Obviously our world has been plagued by religions that claim that there exists a homophobic God who hates homosexuality. From my perspective this is utterly absurd. This same fabled God has a record of being extremely misogynistic as well, so I see no reason to give him any respect in any case.

~~~~~

The only reason I see that the question of whether or not homosexuality is a "choice" is precisely because these hate-mongering religions are constantly attempting to accuse people of "choosing" to be sinners. :roll:

My disrespect goes out to those hate-mongering religions. Not toward any humans who might happen to chose to become intimate with someone of their own sex.

So whether sexual orientation is a choice or not, doesn't even seem to me to be an important question at all. Who cares? I certainly don't.

And in the end, I don't see where science could ever hope to answer this question in general. At best, they might be able to suggest that for some individuals it may be more genetic-related than for others. But to make any scientific claim that the cause of sexual-orientation is the same for all individuals seems ludicrous. Even the sciences of biology and psychology have clearly demonstrated that there are many potential factors and therefore these sciences are actually saying that it is impossible to make any blanket conclusions. At best, all science can say is that the cause of sexual orientation is most likely different for all individuals.
[center]Image
Spiritual Growth - A person's continual assessment
of how well they believe they are doing
relative to what they believe a personal God expects of them.
[/center]

justonething
Newbie
Posts: 1
Joined: Mon Mar 21, 2016 10:03 pm
Been thanked: 1 time

Re: What does the science REALLY say about sexuality?

Post #3

Post by justonething »

[Replying to post 1 by Haven]

I have a serious question that when asked tends to not be recieved as serious.

With all due respect i ask this..

If homosexuality is a chemical imbalance, natural occurance, or ade simply born as such, what about beastiality? Or any other preference of sexuality? Necrophelia, pedophelia, etc... It would only make sense to me that if one form of sexuality is a scientific chemical imbalance etc.. than all would have to be.

User avatar
Erexsaur
Apprentice
Posts: 204
Joined: Sat Mar 16, 2013 12:09 am

Post #4

Post by Erexsaur »

Hello Hayven,

Please forgive me for this post that's 3 years late. I'm sorry I didn't discover this leg earlier. Perhaps there's still someone around to read it.

Let's try a little bit of common sense in this discussion. The only gender orientation I know of is that of male and female that's as distinct as 1 and zero. What do AC operated electrical appliances need other than to have male plugs to go into female outlets?

As for human beings, is there any need for anything other than the man with his unique noble manly characteristics to be helped and to be complemented by the woman with her unique, noble womanly characteristics as they form a unique, noble union to live, reproduce, and to maintain and replenish the earth?

Why are there so many attempts to add on to the simple basic necessity of the two sexes? Scientific knowledge and inquiry only deepen understanding of such and not to make unnecessary additions.

What unique contributions do homosexuals make toward life's protocols that are not possible with heterosexuals? What unique bodily makeup has the homosexual? If the prefix, "homo" in "homosexual" means single sexed, why are there male and female homosexuals?

Earl

User avatar
Aetixintro
Site Supporter
Posts: 840
Joined: Mon Oct 28, 2013 3:18 am
Location: Metropolitan-Oslo, Norway, Europe
Has thanked: 190 times
Been thanked: 10 times
Contact:

Re: What does the science REALLY say about sexuality?

Post #5

Post by Aetixintro »

[Replying to post 1 by Hayven]

One insight of mine is that the parents can actually make a bi-gendered person just like conscious people should be able to choose sex of their baby at conception.

One note, though, the parents of the bi-gendered person may not be entirely "square", that is, when they actually want to make a bi-gendered person with all the troubles it entails...
I'm cool! :) - Stronger Religion every day! Also by "mathematical Religion", the eternal forms, God closing the door on corrupt humanity, possibly!

User avatar
Divine Insight
Savant
Posts: 18080
Joined: Thu Jun 28, 2012 10:59 pm
Location: Here & Now
Been thanked: 14 times

Post #6

Post by Divine Insight »

Erexsaur wrote: Let's try a little bit of common sense in this discussion. The only gender orientation I know of is that of male and female that's as distinct as 1 and zero. What do AC operated electrical appliances need other than to have male plugs to go into female outlets?
Gender identity and orientation is far more complex than just the physics of biological organs. So your suggestion that it can be reduced to something as simple as 1 and zero only shows that you don't understand the depth of the situation.

Girls and women have been trained and conditioned by society to behave in certain ways and even express themselves in certain ways. From how they dress, to how they act, to what types of careers are deemed "acceptable", etc.

Boys and men have also been conditioned by society to behave in certain ways.

These "Gender stereotypes" our pushed onto people from birth. These types of traits cannot be reduced to something as simple or distinct as 1 and zero.

So to suggest that this can all be reduced to simply whether or not someone has a certain sexual organ is to display a gross ignorance of the true nature of the situation.

As I mentioned in my previous post from years ago, these questions are so dependent upon the individuals involved that it would be difficult for science to say anything definitive that could cover everyone. At best, scientific studies might be able to suggest some factors that may influence some people's gender orientations, but to try to put all individuals in the same box would be ludicrous.

Claiming that it's as simple as 1 and zero makes an even graver error.
[center]Image
Spiritual Growth - A person's continual assessment
of how well they believe they are doing
relative to what they believe a personal God expects of them.
[/center]

Online
nobspeople
Guru
Posts: 1043
Joined: Wed Nov 11, 2020 11:32 am
Has thanked: 391 times
Been thanked: 173 times

Re: What does the science REALLY say about sexuality?

Post #7

Post by nobspeople »

[Replying to Hayven in post #1]

Is there any evidence that homosexuality is a choice?
If by choice we mean choosing what a gender of person you like has more of (long hair, shorter than average, blue eyes, etc) then partially I think it is a choice. You may prefer long hair and blue eyes, but you may also find yourself attracted to short hair and green eyes, for example.
If, by choice, we mean what gender someone tends to be attracted to, then not so much. Sure sure you can decide with whom you want to engage in sex (male or female) but that doesn't mean you aren't more attracted to the other sex.
On the 1-100 scope of sexuality, I don't believe anyone is totally 1 or totally 100, but some where between 2 & 99.

User avatar
Haven
Guru
Posts: 1803
Joined: Sun Jan 12, 2014 8:23 pm
Location: Tremonton, Utah
Has thanked: 70 times
Been thanked: 51 times
Contact:

Re:

Post #8

Post by Haven »

Erexsaur wrote: Sun Jun 10, 2018 10:04 pm Hello Hayven,

Please forgive me for this post that's 3 years late. I'm sorry I didn't discover this leg earlier. Perhaps there's still someone around to read it.

Let's try a little bit of common sense in this discussion. The only gender orientation I know of is that of male and female that's as distinct as 1 and zero. What do AC operated electrical appliances need other than to have male plugs to go into female outlets?

As for human beings, is there any need for anything other than the man with his unique noble manly characteristics to be helped and to be complemented by the woman with her unique, noble womanly characteristics as they form a unique, noble union to live, reproduce, and to maintain and replenish the earth?

Why are there so many attempts to add on to the simple basic necessity of the two sexes? Scientific knowledge and inquiry only deepen understanding of such and not to make unnecessary additions.

What unique contributions do homosexuals make toward life's protocols that are not possible with heterosexuals? What unique bodily makeup has the homosexual? If the prefix, "homo" in "homosexual" means single sexed, why are there male and female homosexuals?

Earl
Hi Earl. My response is also three years late, so no worries there :).

While you are right about electrical appliances, human beings are so much more complex than appliances. You've presented this ideal of perfect masculinity and femininity, and how they compliment each other, but in the real world, things are much more complex. Not every human with male biology is masculine in look or personality, and not every human with female biology is feminine in look or personality. This is not something that is chosen, it is innate (via a combination of genetic and environmental factors), as has been demonstrated in the scientific literature for 50 years. Furthermore, not every man desires women the way you seem to, and vice versa for women. Some people would strongly say that they are attracted to the same sex, that it is members of the same sex which compliments their body and personality. Who are we to disagree?

This is to say nothing of transgender and nonbinary individuals (such as myself), who do not clearly align with either manhood or womanhood, or idealized masculinity / femininity.

I get that you most likely oppose homosexuality and transgender / nonbinary identity for religious reasons, but that's not the subject of this thread. It's about the science, and your view has been debunked numerous times (see the OP and citations for more information).

All the best to you! Have a fabulous week :D.

-Haven
♥ Haven (she/her) ♥
♥ Kindness is the greatest adventure ♥

User avatar
Haven
Guru
Posts: 1803
Joined: Sun Jan 12, 2014 8:23 pm
Location: Tremonton, Utah
Has thanked: 70 times
Been thanked: 51 times
Contact:

Re: What does the science REALLY say about sexuality?

Post #9

Post by Haven »

As for what unique contributions lesbians / gay men make (please see rule 3 — no calling someone “homosexual”), here are a few:

1. Gay men often have feminine personalities and psychological characteristics, and this makes them ideal for professions involving design, caregiving, theatrics, and creativity. Straight women are often found in these professions, but gay men uniquely excel in them.

2. Lesbian women’s masculine traits show that a female body doesn’t have to mean idealized femininity, submissiveness, and dependency on a man. Butch lesbians show that a woman with masculine traits can exist and be happy, and straight people cannot / do not do this.

3. Both gay men and lesbians are uniquely positioned to adopt and raise unwanted children, since most such couples cannot reproduce (there are exceptions to this, like in the case of a trans man and a cis man, or a trans woman and cis woman). Straight couples can have biological kids, and so they often prefer to biologically reproduce over adopt. Gay couples adopt as a matter of course, and statistical data show that they are slightly more effective as parents than are heterosexual couples.
♥ Haven (she/her) ♥
♥ Kindness is the greatest adventure ♥

Online
nobspeople
Guru
Posts: 1043
Joined: Wed Nov 11, 2020 11:32 am
Has thanked: 391 times
Been thanked: 173 times

Re: What does the science REALLY say about sexuality?

Post #10

Post by nobspeople »

Haven wrote: Mon Feb 08, 2021 4:29 pm As for what unique contributions lesbians / gay men make (please see rule 3 — no calling someone “homosexual”), here are a few:

1. Gay men often have feminine personalities and psychological characteristics, and this makes them ideal for professions involving design, caregiving, theatrics, and creativity. Straight women are often found in these professions, but gay men uniquely excel in them.

2. Lesbian women’s masculine traits show that a female body doesn’t have to mean idealized femininity, submissiveness, and dependency on a man. Butch lesbians show that a woman with masculine traits can exist and be happy, and straight people cannot / do not do this.

3. Both gay men and lesbians are uniquely positioned to adopt and raise unwanted children, since most such couples cannot reproduce (there are exceptions to this, like in the case of a trans man and a cis man, or a trans woman and cis woman). Straight couples can have biological kids, and so they often prefer to biologically reproduce over adopt. Gay couples adopt as a matter of course, and statistical data show that they are slightly more effective as parents than are heterosexual couples.
I think there's something to be said for how our differences differentiate us in different ways (that's a lot of plays on the word I know). It shows that some biasness comes from a part of reality. That said, it's worth noting not everyone fits in to a specific mold based on their age, gender, sexual preference, religion, height, blah blah blah.
People tend to fear what they don't understand - something even the best of us deal with in our lives (being no one's perfect). We need to constantly reminds ourselves of this and strive not to fall in to this trap.*

In regards to the 'science' of it all, science is a great tool for understanding. Unfortunately, science almost always tells us the more we learn the more we see that's left to learn. Much like the ocean, the depths of human sexuality eludes us mostly; we know it's there, we know it does 'things', but the how and why is, more oft than not, still elusive, likely because it evolves faster than we can understand it.
IMO of course.

*Said in general, not in an accusatory way towards anyone here.

Post Reply