Sex hormones and male homosexuality in comparative perspective
- Cite this article as:
- Meyer-Bahlburg, H.F.L. Arch Sex Behav (1977) 6: 297. doi:10.1007/BF01541203
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Animal research has demonstrated the modifiability of sex-dimorphic mating behavior by hormone and brain manipulation, especially in subprimate mammals, and has led to radical attempts at treating human homosexuality by psychosurgery and to the suggestion of preventing homosexuality by prenatal hormone manipulation. This article reviews psychoendocrine studies of human homosexuality — the effects of hormone treatments on sexual orientation, the association of clinical endocrine syndromes with homosexuality, sex hormone measurements in homosexual subjects, and the issue of prenatal endocrine influences on human sexual orientation. The available studies, often deficient in methodology, have produced conflicting and largely negative results as to a hormonal theory of human homosexuality. Unfortunately, there is hardly any overlap between psychoendocrine studies on sexual orientation in man and on sex-dimorphic mating behavior in subhuman mammals that would allow systematic comparisons. A major alternate theory of human homosexuality has been derived from learning theory, and this position has been strengthened by the recent development of partially successful behavior therapy approaches to the change of sexual orientation. There is currently a lack of animal experimentation that could assist in formulating a learning-based etiological theory of human homosexuality. Since the influence of hormones relative to learning on sexual behavior appears to diminish along the evolutionary scale, animal models need to include manipulation of both hormonal and learning conditions.