Neuroimaging study differentiates gay and straight males

It must be Bailey week here on the blog. I am reporting here on a study done in his lab led by Northwestern undergraduates Adam Safron and Ben Barch. The study titled: “Neural Correlates of Sexual Arousal in Homosexual and Heterosexual Men” was published in the April, 2007 edition of Behavioral Neuroscience.

Dr. Bailey described this study at the December conference at Catholic University. Essentially, brain scans demonstrate that activation in the brains of gay and straight men differ in response to sexual images. The abstract reads:

Men exhibit much higher levels of genital and subjective arousal to sexual stimuli containing their preferred sex than they do to stimuli containing only the nonpreferred sex. This study used event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate how this category-specific pattern would be reflected in the brains of homosexual (n = 11) and heterosexual (n = 11) men. Comparisons of activation to preferred sexual stimuli, nonpreferred sexual stimuli, and sports stimuli revealed large networks correlated with sexual arousal, spanning multiple cortical and subcortical areas. Both homosexual and heterosexual men exhibited category-specific arousal in brain activity. Within the amygdala, greater preference-related activity was observed in homosexual men, but it is unclear whether this is a cause or a consequence of their sexuality. In a subsequent analysis of regions hypothesized to support arousal, both participant groups demonstrated widespread increases in evoked activity for preferred stimuli. Aggregate data from these regions produced significant differences between stimulus types in 16 out of 22 participants. Significant activational differences matched reported sexual orientation in 15 of these 16 participants, representing an advance in psychophysiological measures of arousal.

At the Catholic University conference, Bailey showed videos of the collective response of men to preferred sexual images compared to neutral images and the results were striking. There was lots of activation with preferred sexual images (gay men to men and straight men to women) and next to nothing with non-preferred imagery. Here is his description of the scans:

And what I’m going to show you next is a movie. It’s a quick movie of somebody’s brain activity while he watches — well, it’s a contrast, actually — preferred stimuli minus neutral. So, this study has both gay men and straight men, and this is the way their brain reacts when they see their preferred sexual stimuli, which, for a straight man, would be women, for gay man would be men, against watching neutral things like — actually, our neutral stimuli here are people playing sports.

And the thing to pay attention to, these hot colors mean that preferred is activating the brain more than neutral, these cold colors mean that neutral stimuli is activating the brain more than preferred. Doesn’t really — just look at all the — you’re going to see a lot of colors like this. Okay? …did you see all those bright colors there? That is a big, big, bold brain reaction to preferred stimuli. The brain really likes seeing preferred sexual stimuli, in men.

Safron et al

Okay. So, the next one is the same sort of thing, except now what you’re going to see is nonpreferred stimuli, so this would be a straight man looking at nude men, and a gay man looking at nude women. Okay? Look how different it looks.

Were all subjects congruent with their self-reports? No, one subject, “Participant 16″ demonstrated activation to same-sex imagery but his self-report was heterosexual.

Participant 16 showed unusually positive evaluations for nonpreferred stimuli. This participant, a self-reported heterosexual, had 10 instances in which he gave positive evaluations to nonpreferred stimuli, whereas other heterosexual men averaged 0.6 positive evaluations. He also tended to give less negative evaluations for nonpreferred stimuli compared with other heterosexual men (the percentages rated “strongly dislike” were 48% and 66%, respectively). Furthermore, he rated preferred stimuli less positively compared with other heterosexual men (the percentages rated “strongly like” were 46% and 82%, respectively).

Was participant 16 bisexual? In denial? Bothered by the procedure? Hard to tell. Dr. Bailey thinks his erotic preferences were really same-sex but his self-concept straight. In practice, who knows? In theory, someone like this could experience attractions to the same sex and process those attractions in a manner that would not lead to a self-attribution of being gay. To me, this highlights one interpretive issue with research like this. Clearly, brain reactions were different associated with sexual orientation differences – and before the person was very aware of the stimuli. However, humans may make a variety of meanings of the same brain activity. This research can tell us what brains are doing but not exactly what it means to any given individual.

Another issue of some import to me as Dr. Bailey and I collaborate to apply this technology with ex-gays is the difficulty some religious participants will have viewing nude pictures. We will need to discuss how what the brain might do with mixed feelings about participation and where that state might show up on the scan. And we might need to have another set of pics to view.

  • quo

    People have pointed out that a problem with one of Bailey’s earlier studies – the one that was supposed to show that male bisexuality doesn’t exist – is that it only measured people’s sexual arousal responses at one particular moment of their lives. In the real world, people’s sexual feelings can move back and forth, so the fact that they don’t show any response to a certain kind of image at one point doesn’t mean that they won’t do so on other occasions.

    There’s a similar potential problem here. The sexual feelings of ex-gays are quite likely to be in a state of flux – the way they react to images on any given day is not necessarily the way they will react on any other day. So ideally, rather than doing a single bran scan on someone and basing all of one’s conclusions about him or her on that, one would want to do many different scans over a long period of time, so that one can capture the full range of potential reactions. Unfortunately there are obvious practical problems associated with doing this.

  • Ivan

    Does this study add anything new to the existing body of research that already exists, other than the fact that homosexuals like nude pictures of men? (Who would’ve guessed?!)

    Ivan.

  • Mary

    I have a question, what if a person does truly change. But neuro paths (I’m sorry I’m not a scientist) that may have been created during homosexual activity have been “wired” and new “wiring” or nueropaths have not yet developed?? Does that mean he is a liar?? Or does that mean he has not developed attraction for women?? Or does it mean that he was once homosexual and could /or could not be but his brain has “set”?? Or can brains change over time – and at what point does that happen??? Just wondering..

    Also, what description of the respondents sexual activity/desire/ preference is being measured and how???

    This just opens up more questions.

    Like alcoholics or drug addicts – can the brain scan change??

  • Ann

    I have brought this up before but I don’t think on this blog – what happens if a person is blind from birth, what stimulates them if they cannot see it or have something/someone to envision sexually so they can be attracted to that gender or have a comparison?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/ Warren

    Mary – We don’t know a lot about change as yet. There do seem to be some changes that associate with cognitive therapy for depression. However, we will need to do these scans repeatedly for various conditions to know.

    Ann – I do not know but that may be a decent argument for brain differentiation independent of sight.

    Ivan – Yes, gay men are attracted to men – no surprise. What impresses me is that the reactions are so rapid and react to brief exposures. Given the brain reactions, it makes sense to me why change of attractions appears to be difficult and for some never happens. This is potentially very helpful information for minstries and counselors.

  • Ann

    has this study been done with women and, if so, how was it conducted and what were the results?

  • Mary

    Okay – LOL – you can examine my head LOL

  • Mary

    Warren,

    In all seriousness, I think that understanding the quick connection people make to stimuli, the thoughts and feelings that go through the mind and body in an instant are worth looking at when dealing with sexual attractions/sexual exciters/ etc.. I think it would add tremendous value to those wounded by sexual abuse, going beyond the original intent of the study.

  • Lynn David

    There was lots of activation with preferred sexual images (gay men to men and straight men to women) and next to nothing with non-preferred imagery.

    All you had to do was record the collective *sighs* & *eww’s* among gay men when the lesbians were onscreen in the first episode of “Queer As Folk” to understand that.

    Within the amygdala, greater preference-related activity was observed in homosexual men, but it is unclear whether this is a cause or a consequence of their sexuality.

    Is he pussy-footing around the idea that gay men have a more “base” response from the older parts of the brain? Or is he going to suggest as some researchers have found that hyperactivity in the amygdala represents a psychological disorder? I think frightening faces, frightening situations and social phobias have been associated with increased activity in the amygdala. Is Bailey saying under his breath that gay men are scared by other men’s faces or some other such idea?

  • Drowssap

    Ann

    As a man I can tell you that attraction is at least 90% visual. Its how we are programmed, we come by it honestly. However you look at a guy like Ray Charles who was blind and he was still very promiscuous. Nature must have developed a backup plan for blind people. What it is… I dunno. I’d say go to a blog for blind people but since they can’t read from a computer they probably don’t exist.

    That one is a mystery.

  • Drowssap

    “Within the amygdala, greater preference-related activity was observed in homosexual men, but it is unclear whether this is a cause or a consequence of their sexuality.”

    I didn’t catch that the first time around. Gay men appear to be more attracted to men than straight men are to women?

    Could that explain the increased promiscuity of some gay men? They are even more attracted to sex than straight men?

  • http://www.exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    I’d say go to a blog for blind people but since they can’t read from a computer they probably don’t exist.

    Drowssap, please tell me you are not that unaware. I don’t mean to pick on you necessarily, but you really should know better.

    Could that explain the increased promiscuity of some gay men? They are even more attracted to sex than straight men?

    How about explaining the increased promiscuity in some straight men over some gay men?  Men in general over women, etc.  Hopefully scans that can read through all the self-deluding and visualization will also help eliminate some of these stereotypes.

  • Mary

    In addition to the brain scans – were there any measuring devices in place such as – pulse, respiratory, blood, etc….

    Also, if the scans can read through stereotypes – let’s put it through the test. Let’s use it on incarcerated individuals who have bona fide evidence of sexual activity and see what their brain scans look like.

  • Ann

    Drowssap,

    Yes, that is my thought as well – I know visualization is a large part of sexual stimulation and determining preferences of any kind. Ray Charles was not blind from birth though so he had knowledge of what men and women looked like, etc. If sexual preferences are determined from an early age, perhaps this was the case with him as well. I remember from the movie that he felt women’s wrists to determine their bone stucture. Knowing we have the drive to have sex is one thing, I am just curious if people who cannot see have early preferences and what their reference point would be. This is where the emotional aspect of relationships would kick in I think – who was kind to them, etc. and an emotional bond developes. Can this then develop into a sexual attraction? If so, is it possible that our preferences are developed though experience or are they set prior to birth? Does visualization have more to do with it than we have previously thought?

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    Quo,

    In the real world, people’s sexual feelings can move back and forth, so the fact that they don’t show any response to a certain kind of image at one point doesn’t mean that they won’t do so on other occasions.

    I do not believe that this has been proven to any satisfaction. In fact, one might say that the question as to whether people’s “sexual feelings” can move back and forth is a central theme of this site.

    Ivan

    Does this study add anything new to the existing body of research that already exists, other than the fact that homosexuals like nude pictures of men?

    Yes. It raises the potential that external measurement can validate (or invalidate) claims of changes in sexual orientation and stimulation.

  • David Blakeslee

    I think this illustrates the power of the progression: attractions first, identity second. Somewhere in there are values which are intertwined to make meaning out of it all. As attractions are acted upon and rewarded, new neural pathways grow and a larger part of the cerebral cortex (identity) becomes incorporated into the initial sexual attraction.

    As attractions are not acted upon and identity is formed around other values and behaviors…perhaps we have this in the example of #16.

  • jag

    I think this is very interesting information, but that it doesn’t explain origins at all. My reasoning? If we know, or at least have indication that brain scans/brain activity can be affected by cognitive therapy (as Warren alluded to earlier), then there is really no way to know if this brain reaction is innate vs. learned.

    Those who know my comments, know which side I show my preference to, but this study certain does little if nothing to further the science either way….aside from to say that gay men “really are” attracted to other men, and heterosexual men “really are” attracted to women. No novel information here.

    As for Drowssap’s remarks:

    “As a man I can tell you that attraction is at least 90% visual. Its how we are programmed, we come by it honestly.”

    As a woman, let me assure you that my attraction is also 90% visual. I’d like to think I come by it honestly as well.

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    As attractions are acted upon and rewarded, new neural pathways grow and a larger part of the cerebral cortex (identity) becomes incorporated into the initial sexual attraction.

    As attractions are not acted upon and identity is formed around other values and behaviors…perhaps we have this in the example of #16.

    David, I believe that is pure speculation.

    As best I can tell we have no reason whatsoever to assume that the brain activity detected is the result of neural pathways resulting from acting on attractions. Other, of course, than that it is a convenient argument.

  • Ann

    visual attraction is mostly to get our sexual attention and many times this initial reaction, after satiated, is not sustainable because there is no emotional foundation – so, if one cannot see outside, what do they see or feel inside to determine their sexual preference or orientation?

  • Ann

    David,

    Your comments made a lot of sense – thank you. I have heard this before but appreciated hearing it again.

  • Mary

    Timothy,

    I think it will validate alot about sterotypes, sexual attraction and change etc.. Some of the gay community might not like this new scientific evidence stuff.

  • Eddy

    Warren, in your closing topic paragraph you mentioned a problem that some religious folks might have with being shown naked imagery. First, I applaud your sensitivity. Second, I’m not sure you need naked images.

    Many gay people completely believe that they were always gay…identifying having a sense of their gayness at a very young age. I would hope that very, very few of them had exposure to adult nudity prior to puberty. Yet, they still maintain that they had homosexual attractions. (LOL! I’m not the only one who snuck off with the Sears catalog, am I?) So, I’m wondering if you’d really need naked imagery. Maybe just the store ads (the inserts) from the Sunday paper.

    While that may sound facetious, I’m wondering what would happen if you handed another sample group a typical store promotional insert…it would have it’s ads for men’s, women’s and children’s clothing (including, but not limited to, underwear and lingerie) but also hard goods (Ahem! I’m talking retail here.)…this would not alert them to what you are measuring and it might also be interesting to see what merchandise also sparks a brain flare.

    This might also teach us something about how much of our sexuality ISN’T genital, or even physical, at all.

  • Drowssap

    Jag

    As a woman, let me assure you that my attraction is also 90% visual. I’d like to think I come by it honestly as well.

    It’s settled, everybody likes a pretty face. 8-)

  • Drowssap

    David Roberts

    How about explaining the increased promiscuity in some straight men over some gay men? Men in general over women, etc. Hopefully scans that can read through all the self-deluding and visualization will also help eliminate some of these stereotypes.

    Every bit of knowledge that we posess comes from spotting patterns. Every businessman, scientist, politician, teacher, EVERYBODY is in the business of spotting patterns. It is the foundation of all human knowledge.

    Should individuals automatically be lumped in with their group? That would be crazy. One universal pattern is that patterns are routinely broken.

    Anyway the pattern doesn’t have to be an absolute difference.

    It could be that

    5% of heterosexual men are very promiscuous

    10% of gay men are very promiscuous

    That would be an interesting find and it wouldn’t be an indictment of either group. In fact it could even be the reverse but how would we know without looking?

  • Drowssap

    David Blakeslee

    I’m afraid I’m going to have to agree with Timothy Kincaid on this one.

    If I have to pick between a complicated neurological process and a guy living on the downlow I’m going with the downlow. 8-)

    However #16 is definately the guy worth studying. There might be an interesting answer lying in that brain. If it turns out that he really is straight that guy is the case study.

  • Jack

    What is the big deal here? It has been established by several researchers a number of years ago that behavior can and in many cases does change brain chemistry over time. So what is so unusual about these findings? You would think that they just discovered the Roseta Stone of homosexuality or something like that. And as some have already pointed out, this only represents a certain point in time and a scan at another time may be quite different. So what have they supposedly proven that we didn’t already know?

  • Mary

    Everyone likes a pretty face…? Duh? We evaluate a face for health, fitness in our cultural (sub cultural) norm, etc… That’s why cosmetic surgery is on the rise, modeling and make up industries do billions of dollars in business, Hollywood is the mecca of “standard” (I have to roll my eyes on that sad truth), etc…. and teenagers are the biggest consumers of clothes, underwear, etc… (yet, another sad truth). Yes, we want that pretty thingy over there. Oh and by the way, guess what women are looking at in women’s magazines??? Guesses anyone?? Other women! We buy because we say that is attractive and I want to be that way. I wonder if our brains ignite over ads?? I’ll bet they do.

  • Mary

    I also wonder Eddy, if when looking at some pictures one can tell if someone is actively gay ( the “model”) This might also skew the brain scan. And, I know I would object to nude pictures or pornographic images but other images do excite me sexually such as those found in ads. Look at some of the men’s clothing adds – guess who the target is? It is the women who are buying for their husbands and boyfriends. And we are sexually attracted to the image. I can tell you if I think the man is gay – I get turned off (not for religious reasons). So you have to know your model as well as the subject you are testing – don’t you?? It is part of the test isn’t it??

  • Drowssap

    Mary

    In the kind of work I do I have to produce print and web advertising from time to time. Let me assure you that you are 100% correct. In advertising appearance is everything. Every little glitch in layout, photo quality, word choice is edited and re-edited and re-re-edited until it looks and sounds perfect. Why? Because a better looking ad brings in noticably more money.

  • David Blakeslee

    I don’t know who started the genetics, biology argument as a justification for civil rights issues, but once used, it became central to the discussion.

    As that argument is dismantled (there are many human sensations which are genetic, but do not entitle the person to a civil right)…then civil rights are withheld…

    As civil rights is tied to something inherently subjective that also requires public expression (religion, for example), the genetic/biological argument becomes mute.

    That is where gays and lesbians can argue more on equal ground.

    The next civil right issue with the “sensation” and “public expression” rule would then ask, “Where and when can we permit and support this and where and when can we not permit ans support this.”

  • Mary

    Well, genetics should not be grounds for civil rights. Because genetics causes a lot of social ills – criminally insane people for one. Gays should argue on the grounds that they have every right so long as it does not impose on the rights of others – although this is tricky in any social discussion.

  • Eddy

    Mary,

    You’ve touched on some of the other areas that I hoped further studies would uncover. I completely agree with you. In my case, if the model looked so straight as to be ‘unattainable’, I’d notice little or no interest. Conversely, if the model was ‘just too gay looking’, little or no interest again.

    Drowssaps comments seem to indicate that the marketers are aware of some of these subtle triggers and, naturally, they exploit them to the max.

  • Mary

    Eddy,

    Not only are marketeers and ad men aware of this they have focus groups that track eye movement and pupil dilation, length of time spent on area of screen, etc..

    I honestly think science and the marketing stats could merge and do a lot of collaborative research together. Actually marketing stats and social stats are one in the same but with different motivations behind the study.

  • jayhuck

    Mary,

    I’m not sure I understand what you mean by “Gays should argue on the grounds that they have every right so long as it does not impose on the rights of others – although this is tricky in any social discussion.”

    What is tricky?

    I do agree with you wholeheartedly though – the problem is, it is never gay people imposing on others, it is others imposing on gay people – at least that’s the way it has been to date.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/ Warren

    CK – First, be assured that Wayne’s intent is to discredit me and anyone he disagrees with.

    I am licensed in Ohio as a clinical counselor but the license is inactive because I have not kept up with Ohio CEUs over the last 3 years. I could activate it by moving back to Ohio and taking the necessary CEU classes.

    When I moved to PA in 1994, there was no licensing law regulating the practice of clinical counseling and there still is not. I worked from the start to get a law that would do this, helped write the scope of practice for the bill, and co-wrote the Sunrise report that the legislature required to consider licensing a profession. In 1998, a law regulating who could use the title Licensed Professional Counselor was passed. The law also regulates who can use the title licensed social worker and licensed marriage and family therapist but the license is not required in order to practice any of these professions. With any new board, it can take years to get a board and regulations in place. Such was the case here. I applied for licensing in 2002 and the process continues today. I have to add that while I am happy to answer you CK, I am concerned that Wayne or others will take this information and twist and distort it. No one seems to want to confront his ongoing distortions and outright falsehoods.

  • jayhuck

    Warren,

    While I agree that Wayne has created his own distortions, he has done some good in uncovering a great deal of distortions and falsehoods created by the religious right – I’m always wavering on whether or not to support him.

  • Mary

    Jayhuck,

    I support many gay activists but not this one. He has soured the gay community with his overt distortion of facts – just as you see- Warren is not liscensed but then he can’t get liscensed??? Wayne leaves out too much and uses flippant phrases that sound more like a bitch session than anything serious. I often wonder if he is not drinking cocktails when he writes. It’s too bad his mother gave him that stupid tape when he came out to his parents. It seems like his anger for his mother has been displaced onto all ex gays. I’m sure he would deny this but the evidence of this past anger is mounting.

  • Andrew

    I am a 29 years male and I have been experiencing shifts from complete same-sex attractions to opposite-sex attraction. I am pretty sure they feel completely different in brain usage and body feeling. These shifts can last as much as a day, or as less as an hour, and can occur very frequently.

    Only after going through these shifting states I could compare how can a man with complete opposite-sex attractions can feel and use his body with the way a man with same-sex attractions feels. After all this, I have to say that the so-called SSA state is a morbid state of the body, where you naturally feel smaller and more sensitive to external stimuli: visual perceptions of bodies and spatial relations, sound, smell etc.

    I understood that SSAs are not primarily sexual but the brain seems to connect primary sensations to body assesment and then sexual identification or differentiation from the object. By failing to identify a male body as belonging to the same category as your body, the visual perception intensifies and supersedes the other stimuli, changing their assesment and making new associations with arousal. This is why the brain starts to triger arousal based on visual feedback, which lacks a natural defence against same-sex confusion and acts so fast that it may sometimes trigger arousal just on expectation of visual stimulation.

    One’s assesment of sexual identity is purely subjective, based on interpreting perceived strong body reactions to a certain sex and acting on them. But the brain can trick the body into acting many ways.

    Nature does not build non-reproductive individuals in large numbers, gender confusion does and maybe certain vulnerable features.

    I’m not a religious person and I live in a country that is very open to gays but I know that nature did not build same-sex sexual behaviour in me although I feel same-sex attractions. I also know that blindmen are leading blindmen on both sides, gays and advocating ex-gays. We are still a long way from truth in this matter. I just hope that research is not a matter of politics of civil rights and that researches will some day have the courage to ackowledge that there is no inborn sexual orientation, but many types of sexual disorientation from reproductive behaviour.

  • jayhuck

    Mary,

    I agree with you to a point – but he has done nothing that Focus on the Family, or Exodus International has not done to try and devalue their perceived enemy – and he has done a great job of uncovering many ways that the religious right has twisted and distorted data to use against gay people.

    He does leave out to much, I agree. Don’t forget, he was ex-gay for awhile and I’m sure he has alot to share – its just so bad that it gets messed up with all his unresolved anger.

  • Drowssap

    Andrew

    I’m gonna have to read your post a few times, that is interesting. You say that you go from straight to gay to straight? You need to visit a guy like Dr. Bailey and get examined. I guarantee you he would be interested.

    As for nature selecting against SSA you are correct. However it doesn’t necessarily mean that homosexual feelings don’t have a biological origin for many people. Autism isn’t genetic and yet it is a biological reality for many people. Sometimes when a car is being put together it gets bumped and two wires get crossed. It can happen.

  • Lynn David

    Andrew wrote:

    ….the so-called SSA state is a morbid state of the body, where you naturally feel smaller and more sensitive to external stimuli: visual perceptions of bodies and spatial relations, sound, smell etc.

    I understood that SSAs are not primarily sexual but the brain seems to connect primary sensations to body assesment and then sexual identification or differentiation from the object. By failing to identify a male body as belonging to the same category as your body, the visual perception intensifies and supersedes the other stimuli, changing their assesment and making new associations with arousal. This is why the brain starts to triger arousal based on visual feedback, which lacks a natural defence against same-sex confusion and acts so fast that it may sometimes trigger arousal just on expectation of visual stimulation.

    I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. First because what you describe with the brain being seems to be so much bunk; I’ve never heard of such a scientific explanation (and in my life I have surely looked for them). And second, ’cause it is my understanding that all you did was describe the sensual reactions of any male whether to another male or as a straight to a woman.

    I’m truly sorry that you feel the way you do about your attractions to other men. What hatred, which you seem to espouse, was surely depicted in your thoughts of the last two paragraphs; because your brain doesn’t trick you, your brain is you, the seat of your mind. Just off the top of my head, I’m going to suggest that you need some psychological counseling. Now you’ll probably tell me that you have and all the ideas come from your counselor…. if so, dump him and get someone with a brain.

    Eh….. sorry but sometimes I just have to be brutal with what I feel to be true.

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    Andrew,

    It is extremely unusual to have sharp vascilation between orientation. Further, generally gay people DO NOT view their body as not belonging to the same category as “male body”. And it is not normal to suddenly feel as though your brain and your body are operating in an unexpected fashion.

    I am not a doctor, but what you are describing sounds like some form of mental illness and I would very strongly encourage you to seek professional mental help. If nothing else, just to humor us, go get an evalutation. Please.

  • Ann

    I am not a doctor

    Enough said Timothy.

  • http://www.wthrockmorton.com Warren

    Folks – It seems to me that Andrew is not from the US and may be having some difficulty with the language.

    I have worked with people who alternate between attractions but not to the degree described here. It may be that other mental states are a part of this picture.

    For anyone experiencing this, consulting with a counselor might be a good part of dealing with this situation.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/ Warren

    Eddy – I plan to discuss the need for a non-pornographic imagery condition. I think it is a good idea for many reasons.

  • quo

    Timothy, you wrote ‘In fact, one might say that the question as to whether people’s “sexual feelings” can move back and forth is a central theme of this site.’

    I’ve personally experienced some instability in my sexual attractions, which I’m sure is due to emotional factors, so I find it perplexing to be told that there is a need for discussion about whether this can happen or not. Why not just accept people’s word that it does? In response to your remark that there is no proof that people can respond to the same images in different ways at different times, I might ask what proof there is that they can’t?

  • jag

    Andrew -

    Your experiences are indeed unusual – as supported by Warren and Timothy. I have never heard of such vascillations, although do not doubt that you experience them. The way in which it is written, given the language barrier, might also be at issue in my understanding of your experience.

    As Warren and Timothy, and now myself suggest – if these fluctuations trouble you, consider seeking some further information from a professional.

    Best of luck.

  • Mary

    Well said Quo.

  • Ann

    Quo,

    Thank you for what you wrote – it addresses individuality and that is important.

  • jayhuck

    Quo,

    I think that’s called bisexuality????? :)

  • jayhuck

    Quo -

    part of the reason that its hard to simply take a person’s word for anything, is that that is really bad science. People’s words are subjective data, and in science, we really want to try, as best we can, to use objective data – psychology is not very good at doing that yet, but I think its getting better.

  • Andrew

    Thank you for your comments. Some of them were very funny, but I haven’t lost my sense of humour. I will address the thought-provoking issues.

    The shifts in attractions I am going through are not of a pathological nature, they do not disrupt me from my work, my social involvement or my relationships with my peers. I don’t have any depressive states or compulsive behaviour or any other form of pathological states I know of. And these shifts in body feeling and in attractions are not actually so sudden. Most of the time I’m in a mixed state, where I can find opposite-sex attractions working but still be vulnerable to same-sex attraction. There has been a number of years when same-sex attractions were exclusive and so was fantasising and arousal. Before this, I used to be exclusively attracted to the opposite sex. SSAs only kicked in after I become isolated from my gender peers, due to the fact that all my male friends left town and I was left with female friends for socialising. After two years I already forgot how to play football and do physical stuff with my male friends. It might seem an unusual turn of events for a social context, but it’s due to very sudden economic changes from where I come from. So it is possible to have many male friends who leave town or country and then be left only with female friends. Before this I had exclusive attractions to females.

    Drowssap

    As for nature selecting against SSA you are correct. However it doesn’t necessarily mean that homosexual feelings don’t have a biological origin for many people. Autism isn’t genetic and yet it is a biological reality for many people. Sometimes when a car is being put together it gets bumped and two wires get crossed. It can happen.

    My idea was not that nature applies some kind of selection against people with SSA, although it might be the case to a certain epiphenomenal extent. But we should not compare congenital dysfunctions that prevent a number of people from reproductive behaviour to the statistically large number of people with SSAs. That cannot be nature’s making in such large numbers. Obviously there is a great developmental influence at work that may prey on inborn vulnerable features. Maybe it’s a condition of the amygdala that keeps giving someone a difficult time in adjusting to their gender peers or maybe it’s a number of vulnerable areas that also concur to the same effect. But car-making error is far from how wires can get crossed in the brain or otherwise. It seems impossible to find an appropriate term of comparison for that, especially when you can take “the car” for a spin and make major adjustments while driving it.

    Lynn David

    your brain doesn’t trick you, your brain is you, the seat of your mind

    You must think that nature made you want to be penetrated anally to no natural use. And also feel overwhelmed by invulnerable males and physically indifferent to females and that’s your healthy state you have to promote and society adjust to, so that you can feel comfortable with your vulnerability. Is that the picture nature projected for you? I agree that people that feel this way should not be object to any kind of hate or discrimination, but i seriously doubt it’s a natural plan to not be able to feel the necessary instinct for reproduction to such an extent. Or to get wires mixed up to such an extent that reproductive behaviour can be disconnected from opposite sex identification.

    Ontopic: You realise that you don’t have headquarters in the neocortex… Or do you? Where is the seat of you for you? Is the body an extension and instrument for you qua brain or indelible part of you? When you have your universally accepted and empirically replicated answer for these questions, i know you will feel at peace with yourself. /I hope I was not as “brutal” as you.

    Warren

    I have worked with people who alternate between attractions but not to the degree described here. It may be that other mental states are a part of this picture.

    “Simple” people have “simple” natural reactions, mostly developed by little and slowly-progressing interaction with social environment. Consequently, low flexibility. That’s your answer, Warren. If everyone had a simple mind and simple inborn reactions you would have no scientific tools. Or no tools whatsoever.

    Timothy Kincaid

    generally gay people DO NOT view their body as not belonging to the same category as “male body”.

    That’s subjective identification, Timothy, mostly based on upper-level abstraction and comparison. But ask a person who does not have a bias in affirming gay identity but feels SSAs: does/did he ever feel in the middle or not? When he enters a meeting where males and females are separated, does he instinctively go to sit with the males in a relaxed manner or does he feel a bit displaced and tries to find the proper place? There are many other examples that can show such evidence.

    The brain has different levels of gender identification, some of which tell a gay person that a man’s saliva is different than his and that is explorable. That’s a low-level perception and it sounds like perception of alterity, isn’t it? What about sound information? Is a gay man overwhelmed the same way by two completely different types of male voices? Does the feeble and medium-pitched voice of a male impress him the same way as a dynamic and/or deep voice of a male? What if that deep voice is that of a hard smoking woman but he cannot check that information without visual feedback? So perceptions can be marginally tricky, but the brain reacts by using an array of most probable identifications. In most situations, it’s right – learned perceptions are confirmed, but perceptions that haven’t been learned yet are assessed with the help of previous estimations.

  • jayhuck

    Andrew -

    What you describe sounds exactly like how many of my bisexual friends have described their experiments – we are often so focused on the extremes we forget that most people fall in the middle somewhere :)

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/ Warren

    Sorry Andrew, can you help me with this:

    “Simple” people have “simple” natural reactions, mostly developed by little and slowly-progressing interaction with social environment. Consequently, low flexibility. That’s your answer, Warren. If everyone had a simple mind and simple inborn reactions you would have no scientific tools. Or no tools whatsoever.

  • Andrew

    Well, you mentioned that you worked with people going through changes in attractions and that it seemed unusual to you that someone may experience a broader range of changes. My answer was that a certain level of flexibility in brain usage might not be easy to find in small samples of population. Do you find it theoretically impossible that someone may experience that without a background of other conditions?

    Let me ask you another thing. What if you study a problem that some people go through but you cannot get very good descriptions of that condition because the people you investigate cannot tell you what may be relevant or they may be simply biased. Maybe that condition requires very accurate distinctions that those people are not used to operate with and they can easily confuse one thing for another. It seems that you are confined to using very basic but more accurate information and resort to establihed methodology for interpretation. But as I said, simple minds work in a simple way and finding a complex solution to a complex condition that remains uncomprehensible may require refining a component of this theoretical setup.

  • Andrew

    Comment by jayhuck

    What you describe sounds exactly like how many of my bisexual friends have described their experiments – we are often so focused on the extremes we forget that most people fall in the middle somewhere

    You might be right. But ask yourself: would you have been right 300 years ago? Do you assume it will hold another 100? This classification of sexual orientation and behaviour is recent, and we tend to obscure any possibility that we may find a new paradigm for defining what is called sexual orientation, which now is at odds with the scientific assumption nature that nature builds all the necessary tools for reproduction, except for rare congenital conditions. This is also supported by a political and social context that tends to assert that it corrects nature according to human standards. To what extent can this go without affecting our animal instincts? Any recent demographic decrease or aging population? Any incresing sexual dysfunctions? Are we used to give stress an elegant name and identify politically correct causes for that? I hope it doesn’t sound conservative or something, because it is not my intention to assert that. But we must not expect science to find out only things that are politically comfortable. I’m sure we can find ways to adapt to that.

    Jayhuck, take a minute to think about this issue. We keep talking about inborn and established ways in nature of doing things that cannot be and should not be changed, because they were dictated by nature. But you know, most animals die stupid and do not have the slightest idea what killed them, even if it’s a common and mild disease. We managed, as humans, to find the most unexpected of tools and solutions to the trickiest situations, including diseases. And we usually take pride in that. Now, when we discuss “sexual orientation” “natural dictates”, we tend to sleep over politics first. It seems to me we are closing our possibilities that made us what we are.

    There are many people who feel unwanted attractions and are not the victims of internalised hatred. Maybe it’s an animal instinct to feel that something happened along the way that now prevents you from pursuing your reproductive behaviour. Why should the be locked in other people’s sexual politics?

    PS. Sorry for the complicated reply, but my informal English is not as good as that of a native speaker right now. :)

  • Drowssap

    Andrew

    Your English is pretty good. I’m just curious what is your native language?

  • Lynn David

    Andrew wrote:

    I used to be exclusively attracted to the opposite sex. SSAs only kicked in after I become isolated from my gender peers, due to the fact that all my male friends left town and I was left with female friends for socialising. After two years I already forgot how to play football and do physical stuff with my male friends.

    Yikes…. so do a number of hen-pecked husbands within marriages but they don’t develop a homosexual orientation. I’ve always had male friends and the associated male activities (late-nite poker games, basketball, fishing, hunting) but my homosexual orientation wasn’t because I lost male contact. Perhaps you do have a reason to worry about your SSA as a psychological problem because loss of male companionship isn’t normally what “brings it on” – one usually just grows up that way.

    You must think that nature made you want to be penetrated anally to no natural use.

    And where did I discuss my own sexual proclivities or that of gay people, in general? That which you seem to hold in so much ignominy is not a pervasive activity among all gay men. Besides sexual attraction when first experienced as a young person has little to do with choice of sexual activity. If I were to suffer an opinion, I’d say that face-to-face frottage would be the first more preferred sexual activity. But that’s just me.

    And also feel overwhelmed by invulnerable males and physically indifferent to females and that’s your healthy state you have to promote and society adjust to, so that you can feel comfortable with your vulnerability. Is that the picture nature projected for you?

    Huh? Me, physically indifferent to (or than) women? Vulnerable to & overwhelmed by men? Either way it’s all a laugh. While I may have a sexual response which may have certain similarities to that of a woman’s or which you might equate to that of a women your assessments do not apply. I very much like my testicle (only one since the cancer), prostate, and penis. Don’t you?

    I agree that people that feel this way should not be object to any kind of hate or discrimination, but i seriously doubt it’s a natural plan to not be able to feel the necessary instinct for reproduction to such an extent. Or to get wires mixed up to such an extent that reproductive behaviour can be disconnected from opposite sex identification.

    I don’t think there is such a thing as reproductive behaviour although biologists might categorize it as such (reproductive behaviours of birds, for instance). There are however behaviours which result in reproduction. In other words, if sexual contact were not pleasurable, no mammal, including man, might engage in it to the degree needed to sustain the species. Thus there is no “natural plan” or plan of nature. That is a decidedly religious viewpoint, not one from the standpoint of science. There is some early data which indicates that male homosexuality is a by-product of a process which results in greater female fertility (yeah, more research is needed). So I have come to see myself as living through my numerous aunts and their children, my cousins. I have a large extended family which is important to me. Seems pretty natural to me.

    You realise that you don’t have headquarters in the neocortex… Or do you? Where is the seat of you for you? Is the body an extension and instrument for you qua brain or indelible part of you? When you have your universally accepted and empirically replicated answer for these questions, i know you will feel at peace with yourself. /I hope I was not as “brutal” as you.

    Where am I? I’m everywhere! I’m in the pain I feel in my left leg, I’m in my hands as I type this, I’m in my R-complex and midbrain, and I am in my neocortical lobes….. I am an integrated whole within my entire brain and feel at one with my body. I have no problem with my base sexual responses to those attractive qualities I enjoy, because it is all me.

    If you do not feel “integrated’ then perhaps you need that counselling.

  • Andrew

    Erm.. northern Uzbekistanish. :p

  • jag

    Andrew -

    If your attraction flux causes you no interruption or distress in work, life, etc…then why does it matter what or who you prefer? It sounds like you feel like bisexuality is who you are…and if so, good for you – no need to convince anyone of anything.

    Thank you for your comments.

  • Mary

    Andrew,

    I do often wonder if our ideas about nature and self would hold up if tested through time – past or future.

  • Drowssap

    Andrew

    northern Uzbekistanish

    Didn’t you mention that SSA was accepted in your country? I thought you were going to say Denmark.

    Uzbekistan? That country is 90% Sunni Muslim. Your people accept homosexuality?

    Gaaaaaah…….


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