Saints or Sinners: Sociobiological Theories of Male Homosexuality

  • Robert Alan Brookey


In response to Christian conservative political action, some gay rights advocates have embraced a biological argument. The argument maintains that because homosexuality may have a biological basis, homosexuals should be protected from discrimination. This essay questions the efficacy of this argumentative strategy. The essay demonstrates that biological theories about male homosexuality may not facilitate the efforts of gay rights advocates. In fact, the sociobiological theories analyzed in this essay represent male homosexuality as a state of effeminate pathology. Furthermore, because these sociobiological theories are underdetermined, they are particularly vulnerable to political manipulation. For these reasons, sexual minorities should be cautious about embracing biological arguments in order to secure greater social and political freedoms.

rhetoric sociobiology gay rights 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Archer, J. (1996). Attitudes toward homosexuals: An alternative Darwinian view. Ethology and Sociobiology, 17, 275–280.Google Scholar
  2. Brelis, M. (1999, February 7). The fading ‘gay gene.’ The Boston Globe, pp. C1, C5.Google Scholar
  3. Brown, R. D., & Cole, J. K. (1985, November). Letters to the Editor, Nebraska Medical Journal, pp. 410–414.Google Scholar
  4. Campbell, K. K. (1989). Man cannot speak for her, Vol. I New York: Praeger.Google Scholar
  5. Dawkins, R. (1976). The selfish gene. Oxford: Oxford University.Google Scholar
  6. DeLamater, J. D., & Hyde, F. S. (1998). Essentialism vs. social constructionism in the study of human sexuality. The Journal of Sex Research, 35, 10–18.Google Scholar
  7. Duberman, M., Vicinus, M., & Chauncey, G. (Eds.) (1989). Hidden from history: Reclaiming the gay and lesbian past. New York: New American Library.Google Scholar
  8. Foucault, M. (1972). The archaeology of knowledge. New York: Pantheon.Google Scholar
  9. Gallagher, J. (1998, February 17). Gay for the thrill of it. The Advocate, 32–37.Google Scholar
  10. Gallup, G. (1995). Have attitudes toward homosexuals been shaped by natural selection? Ethology and Sociobiology, 16, 53–70.Google Scholar
  11. Gallup, G. (1996). Attitudes toward homosexuals and evolutionary theory: The role of evidence. Ethology and Sociobiology, 17, 281–284.Google Scholar
  12. Gallup, G., & Suarez, S. (1983). Homosexuality as a by-product of selection for optimal heterosexual strategies. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 26, 315–322.Google Scholar
  13. Gaonkar, D. (1993). The idea of rhetoric in the rhetoric of science. Southern Communication Journal, 58, 258–295.Google Scholar
  14. Goode, E., & Troiden, R. (1980). Correlates and accompaniments of promiscuous sex among male homosexuals. Psychiatry, 43, 51–59.Google Scholar
  15. Halperin, D. M. (1995). Saint Foucault: Toward a gay hagiography. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Hamer, D. H., Hu, S., Magnuson, V. L., Hu, N., & Pattatucci, A. M. L. (1993). A linkage between DNA markers on the X chromosome and male sexual orientation. Science, 261, 321–327.Google Scholar
  17. Howe, E., & Lyne, J. (1992). Gene talk in sociobiology. Social Epistemology, 6, 109–163.Google Scholar
  18. Hutchinson, G. (1959). A speculative consideration of certain possible forms of sexual selection in man. The American Naturalist, 93, 81–91.Google Scholar
  19. Keen, L., & Goldberg, S. B. (1998). Strangers to the law: Gay people on trial. Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  20. LeVay, S. (1993). The sexual brain. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  21. Longino, H. E. (1990). Science as social knowledge. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Lyne, J. (1987). Learning the lessons ofLysenko: Biology, rhetoric, and politics in historical controversy. In J.Wenzel, et al. (Eds.), Argument and critical practice (pp. 507–512). Annandale, VA: Speech Communication Association.Google Scholar
  23. Lyne, J. (1990). Bio-rhetorics: Moralizing the life sciences. In H.W. Simons (Ed.), The rhetorical turn: Invention and persuasion in the conduct of inquiry (pp. 35–57). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  24. Lyne, J. (1998). Knowledge and performance in argument: Disciplinarity and proto-theory. Argumentation and Advocacy, 35, 3–9.Google Scholar
  25. Mendel, G. (1865/1950). Experiments in plant hybridization (W. Bateson, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Pavelka, M. (1995). Sexual nature: What can we learn from a cross-species perspective. In P. R. Abramson & S. D. Pinkerton, (Eds.), Sexual nature, sexual culture (pp. 17–36). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  27. Rice, G., Anderson, C., Risch, N., Ebers, G. (1999). Male homosexuality: Absence of linkage to microsatellite markers at Xq28. Science, 284, 665–667.Google Scholar
  28. Ruse, M. (1981). Are there gay genes? Sociobiology and homosexuality. Journal of Homosexuality, 6, 5–34.Google Scholar
  29. Russo, V. (1987). The celluloid closet: Homosexuality in the movies. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  30. Stein, E. (1994). The relevance of scientific research about sexual orientation to lesbian and gay rights. Journal of Homosexuality, 27, 269–308.Google Scholar
  31. Van Wyk, P., & Geist, C. (1984). Psychosocial development of heterosexual, bisexual, and homosexual behavior. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 13, 505–544.Google Scholar
  32. Walters, S. D. (1996). From here to queer: Radical feminism, postmodernism, and the lesbian menace (or, why can't a woman be more like a fag?). Signs, 21, 830–869.Google Scholar
  33. Watney, S. (1995). Gene wars. In M. Berger, B.Wallis, & S.Watson, (Eds.), Constructing Masculinity (pp.157–166). New York: RoutledgeGoogle Scholar
  34. Weinrich, J. (1976). Human reproduction strategy. I. Environmental predictability and reproductive strategy; effects of social class and race. II. Homosexuality and non-reproduction; some evolutionary models. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.Google Scholar
  35. Weinrich, J. (1987). A new sociobiological theory of homosexuality applicable to societies with universal marriage. Ethology and Sociobiology, 8, 37–47.Google Scholar
  36. Weinrich, J. (1995). Biological research on sexual orientation: A critique of the critics. In J. P. DeCecco & D. A. Parker, (Eds.), Sex, cells, and same-sex desire: The biology of sexual preference (pp. 197–213). New York: Harrington.Google Scholar
  37. Wilson, E. O. (1975). Sociobiology: The new synthesis. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Wilson, E. O. (1998). Consilience: The unity of knowledge. New York: Knopf.Google Scholar
  39. Woolf, H. B. (1977). Webster' New Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster.Google Scholar
  40. Zita, J. N. (1994). Gay and lesbian studies: Yet another unhappy marriage? In L. Garber (Ed.), Tilting the tower: Lesbians, teaching, queer study (pp. 258–276). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Gay and Lesbian Medical Association 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Alan Brookey

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations