Proceed with Caution: Interpreting Evidence for Prenatal Influences on Sexual Orientation
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In recent decades, scientific discourse on the topic of sexual orientation has progressed from “Is it biological?” to “What kind of biological?” Breedlove’s own intellectual journey, eloquently recounted in his Target Article (Breedlove, 2017), illustrates this evolution well, and it is particularly telling given his close involvement in the field over many years. Yet the answer he offers—that there’s a clear-cut difference between the mechanisms determining sexual orientation in men and in women—should be viewed with some caution.
Breedlove, like most others in the field, subscribes to a neurohormonal theory of sexual orientation: Androgen-sensitive brain regions that mediate sexual attraction, Breedlove believes, develop in a sex-atypical fashion in fetuses who become same-sex-attracted adults. What’s novel about Breedlove’s article is his assertion that a clear sex difference exists with respect to the mechanisms underlying the development of lesbians and gay men. Diversity in...