Roots of reparative therapy – Momism as a root of homosexuality

Yesterday, I quoted the bookjacket of Their Mothers’ Sons by Edward Strecker which proposes smothering mothering as a culprit for the failure of boys to become men. Today, I want to quote a bit more from the book, specifically in reference to homosexuality. Of course, Strecker sees mom as being at root of the gay.

First,  I provide Strecker’s basic diagnosis of the sad lot of sons who find themselves in mom’s grips. Strecker’s laboratory was war. He lamented that over 3 million men dodged the draft or were discharged for psychiatric reasons during World War II. Strecker acknowledged for all people there is a inner battle between self-preservation and fighting for the greater good. Some men became valient fighters, even accepting with grace their wounds, whereas others wilted in the face of the demands of war. Why the difference? According to Strecker, it comes down to maturity. He wrote:

Why did the desire for self-preservation defeat one group of men, the their discredit, and not the other? The answer in ninety percent of the cases can be given in one word, IMMATURITY. The majority of men who failed, like the majority of men who fail for the same reasons in ordinary life, were IMMATURE. (p. 21; emphasis in the original).

So what causes immaturity?

You guessed it.


Strecker wrote:

Maturity is not an inborn trait; it is not hereditary. It is the result of early background, environment, training, and unselfish parental love…Given the opportunity of having known when he was eight to twelve years old, any one of the men who failed in his opportunity to serve in the armed forces because of neuropsychiatric tendencies, and, particularly, of having known his mother, a competent psychiatrist could have forecast with reasonable accuracy the boy’s future immaturity. In the vast majority of case histories, a “mom” is at fault. (p. 23).

For Strecker, immaturity, and therefore mom, is also at root of homosexuality. While he does allow for “biological deviations” as involved in homosexuality, he also implicates “mom and her wiles.” Strecker provides a letter from a teen who calls himself a “sissy” and a “mother’s boy.” The young man also describes homosexual attractions. Strecker’s then diagnoses the causes of the boy’s homosexuality from his letter.

The essential parts  are there, and unedited, and a study of them shows two familiar types of silver cords – “you will never find anyone quite as pretty and worthy of you as mom,” and “sexual intercourse is a horrible affair in which the husband is the beast.” Mom, as the paints her in his letter, in undoubtedly the ‘pretty addlepate’ who by her actions and what she has said and implied has poisoned the boy’s mind against normal, mature heterosexual living. In various ways, mostly devious, he has been made to know that no girl could measure up to his mom, so he veered away from the normal companionship with girls that a part of every high school boy’s life. Sex was degrading, unnatural, undesireable — his mom had told him so. Naturally, when completely entwined by these two silver cords, his normal, healthy masculine instincts were stifled. The result — a tendency toward abnormal sex life.

Strecker also points to mothers who really wanted girls as another force behind some homosexuality. He then invokes one of the many psychoanalytically based theories by suggesting that some men remain in love with mother past their childhood which results in overwhelming guilt. This guilt is then transferred to other girls and women as an adult. Thus,

heterosexuality in a complete way is impossible for him to achieve and he may turn to homosexuality in his need for some sex outlet, as the lesser evil. (p. 131)

Lesbians are almost ignored but not quite. Strecker saves some blame for dad:

All the same forces operate against the daughters of immature fathers — pops — as well as against the sons of moms. The pop who mentally seduces his daughter may implant a tendency toward lesbianism.

Strecker concludes:

I want to repeat that while innate factors often go into the making of homosexuality, yet the environmental influence is strong enough so that moms and pops are to blame. (p. 132)

Dr. Strecker provides no references or evidence for his statements beyond the letter from the young man. Readers are apparently expected to believe him because he is a psychiatrist and an advisor to the armed services. Strecker puts much more weight on mothering than current reparative therapists do, but, in my view, Strecker, writing in 1946, would fit in quite well at the 2011 NARTH conference.

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  • Madison

    Warren, I see some recurring themes in your posts that I don’t completely understand. For one, isn’t there some consensus that female and male sexuality have some differences, especially as it relates to same sex attraction? Pointing out when only males are considered seems like an inaccurate jab. Also, it seems like you feel that if Bem contradicts Nicolosi who contradicts Strecker than none of them could even be partially correct. Is that a valid conclusion? I wouldn’t think so. As a new parent, I am overly aware of how much psychological development is taking place with my offspring. To downplay parental impact seems absurd to me.