Homosexualities: A Study of Diversity Among Men and Women
Homosexualities: A Study of Diversity Among Men and Women (1978) is a book about homosexuality by the psychologist Alan P. Bell and the sociologist Martin S. Weinberg. Together with Homosexuality: An Annotated Bibliography (1972), it is part of a series of books that culminated in the publication of Sexual Preference in 1981. The work was a publication of the Institute for Sex Research. Bell and Weinberg argue that homosexuality is not necessarily related to pathology and divide homosexuals into five different types.
Cover of the first edition
|Authors||Alan P. Bell
Martin S. Weinberg
|Publisher||The Macmillan Company of Australia|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover and Paperback)|
Homosexualities received much attention when it was published, and mixed reviews. Though it became influential, and has been seen as a classic work, it has been criticized for Bell and Weinberg's sampling methods and their typology of homosexuals, which has been seen as misleading. Many of Bell and Weinberg's findings have become dated due to social changes since the 1970s, such as the AIDS epidemic and the progress of the gay rights movement.
The sex researcher Alfred Kinsey had intended to publish a study of homosexuality to complement Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953), but died before being able to produce such a volume. Following Kinsey's death, the Institute for Sex Research became involved in other projects and did not focus its attention on homosexuality again until the late 1960s. Stanley Yolles of the National Institute of Mental Health established the National Institute of Mental Health Task Force on Homosexuality, which held its first meeting in 1967, and decided that further research into homosexuality was needed. The NIMH Task Force invited the Institute for Sex Research to submit a proposal for a comprehensive study of the development of homosexuality. The Institute's proposal, based upon many of the NIMH Task Force's recommendations, was modified after consultation with NIMH officials.
Bell and Weinberg, during the initial stages of their work, consulted with numerous experts on homosexuality who often held views quite different from theirs. Those listed as contributors to the study included the ethologist Frank A. Beach, the psychoanalyst Irving Bieber, Wainwright Churchill, the psychologist Albert Ellis, the anthropologist Paul Gebhard, the psychologist Evelyn Hooker, the sociologist Laud Humphreys, the psychiatrist Judd Marmor, the sexologist Wardell Pomeroy, the sociologist Edward Sagarin, the psychiatrist Robert Stoller, the psychologist Clarence Arthur Tripp, and the sociologist Colin J. Williams. Bell and Weinberg commented that, "Our correspondence and personal meetings with these individuals were of great help to us in constructing a viable interview schedule. While the final instrument, devised over many meetings of various Institute personnel, did not entirely please or represent the views of any one person associated with it, the interview schedule in its final form was the result of endless discussions and sometimes painful compromise on the part of many highly committed people."
Homosexualities was part of a series of books that resulted from what Bell and Weinberg called the San Francisco Study. The series began with Homosexuality: An Annotated Bibliography in 1972 and culminated in the publication of Sexual Preference in 1981. The book's direct predecessor was Patterns of Adjustment in Deviant Populations, a 1967 survey of white gay men in Chicago designed by Bell and Gebhard and funded by NIMH. This pilot study contained many questions identical to those used in Homosexualities, which was a survey of gay men and lesbians carried out in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1969 and 1970.
Kinsey and his colleagues used a single scale to measure a person's balance of heterosexuality and homosexuality, and took both sexual behavior and sexual feelings into account in assigning people ratings. Bell and Weinberg, believing that the Kinsey scale as originally conceived was unsatisfactory, modified it by employing two different scales, one to measure sexual behavior and one to measure sexual feelings. Their reason was that "sexual behavior and sexual feelings may not always be the same for an individual". Bell and Weinberg described their criteria for heterosexuality and homosexuality and its rationale as follows:
In reality, the ratio of homosexuality to heterosexuality in individuals' sexual behavior and feelings varies infinitely, but for statistical purposes it was obviously necessary for us arbitrarily to distinguish between "homosexual" and "heterosexual" respondents. Respondents were therefore assigned to one or the other group based on their self-ratings on the seven-point Kinsey Scale, which ranges from "exclusively heterosexual" (a score of 0) to "exclusively homosexual" (a score of 6)...If a respondent's score with respect to feelings, added to his or her score with respect to behaviors, amounted to 4 or more, he or she was assigned to the "homosexual" group.
Bell and Weinberg found that homosexuality was not necessarily related to pathology. Like Kinsey and his colleagues, they found bisexual behavior and orientation to be widespread. They proposed that homosexuals could be divided into five categories based on their life styles: "close coupled" (exclusively monogamous relationships), "open coupled" and "functional" (more or less open relationships), and "dysfunctional" and "asexual" (relatively uninterested in sex). Bell and Weinberg maintained that these represented natural groupings, and considered them appropriate for both males and females, although they found dramatic differences between the life styles of gay men and lesbians. Between 10 and 15 per cent of males were monogamous, half or more were in open relationships, and about 25 per cent in the dysfunctional or asexual categories.
Females were more likely than males to be monogamous. One third or more of the lesbians were monogamous, while the rest fell into the other categories. There were even larger differences between males and females in sexual behavior. Nearly half of the males had over 500 different sexual partners in a lifetime, another third had between 100 and 500, and over 90 per cent had at least 25 (black gay men were on average slightly less promiscuous than white gay men). Much sex between men took place between strangers, met in baths or bars. 25 per cent of white gay men at some time had sex with boys who were sixteen or younger, after they themselves reached the age of 21. Most lesbians, however, had fewer than 10 same-sex partners over a lifetime, and very few cruised or looked for casual sex. Little lesbian sex took place between strangers. Women's sexual behavior showed a relatively greater level of heterosexual activity and a relatively lower level of homosexual activity compared to that of men.
Comparing the happiness of homosexuals to that of heterosexuals, Bell and Weinberg found that while "close coupled" gay men reported more happiness than straight men, "asexual" and "dysfunctional" gay men were less happy on average than straight men. 20 per cent of gay men had attempted suicide, and another 20 per cent had seriously considered suicide. "Close coupled" gay men were happier than "open coupled" gay men. About two thirds of gay men had at some time contracted venereal disease through homosexual sex.
Bell and Weinberg documented efforts by homosexuals to change their sexual orientation, finding that depending on factors such as sex and race, between 29 and 38 per cent of its subjects had considered abandoning homosexual behavior. Between 40 and 75 per cent of those who had considered abandoning homosexuality actually attempted it, some making repeated attempts. The attempts included measures such as withdrawing from gay sociosexual involvement, increasing heterosexual sociosexual involvement, stopping homosexual feelings, and seeking professional help. Between 11 and 23 percent of the subjects had consulted a professional to seek help in giving up homosexuality. When asked whether, had it been possible to take a magic pill at birth that would have guaranteed that they would have become heterosexual, between 72 and 89 per cent indicated that they would not have wanted to take the pill. When asked whether they would want to take such a pill now, between 86 and 95 per cent said no. Those who regretted their sexual orientation did so primarily because it exposed them to societal rejection (about 50 per cent gave this as a reason).
Many gay men and lesbians had children, especially if they had been previously married. Over 50 per cent of homosexuals who had been married had children. When they asked homosexuals whether they would be disturbed if their own children became homosexual, between 25 and 33 per cent said yes. Between 69 and 77 per cent said that they would not be upset, or only a little upset, if one of their children became homosexual. Compared to heterosexuals, homosexuals were much less likely to marry: 25 per cent of homosexuals married and 75 per cent did not, while for heterosexuals, the proportions were roughly reversed. When homosexuals did marry, they had less heterosexual intercourse and fewer children than heterosexuals. Some other findings were that 1 per cent of gay men were attracted to feminine qualities in a man, that gay men had little interest in competitive sport, and that older gay men were more likely than younger gay men to concentrate on fellatio. Bell and Weinberg were unable to explain the finding about sport, and were wary of concluding that the differences in sexual behavior between older and younger gay men represented a shift in sexual mores.
Homosexualities received much attention when it was published.
In 1978, Homosexualities was reviewed by the novelist Richard Hall in The New Republic. The historian Martin Duberman gave Homosexualities a mixed review in The New York Times. Duberman characterized the book as "the most ambitious study" of male homosexuality yet attempted, but was critical of Bell and Weinberg's "sample techniques and simplistic typologies" and saw their work as part of "sexology's mainstream", believing that while most gays would welcome Bell and Weinberg's conclusion that gays differ little from "mainstream Americans", gay radicals would be angered. Duberman suggested that Bell and Weinberg offered a "sanitized" version of gay experience. In 2002, The New York Times quoted Duberman as saying that Homosexualities: A Study of Diversity Among Men and Women resulted from "the most ambitious study of male homosexuality ever attempted", and that together with Sexual Preference (1981), the book "refuted a large number of previous studies that gay men were social misfits".
Scientific and academic journalsEdit
In 1979, Homosexualities received a positive review from Clarissa K. Wittenberg in Psychiatric News, the official newsletter of the American Psychiatric Association, and a mixed review from Stephen F. Morin in Sex Roles. The book was also reviewed by John H. Curtis in the American Journal of Family Therapy. Homosexualities received two reviews in the Journal of Homosexuality, one by Russell Boxley, and the other by Joseph M. Carrier.
Wittenberg wrote that Homosexualities was certain to become an instant classic and that it fully deserved this status. Morin described the book as a "long-awaited publication", but did not consider its authors' findings surprising. Morin wrote that Bell and Weinberg appeared to have found "difficulty in dealing with the diversity of experiences that they found among their gay respondents". While appreciating Bell and Weinberg's attempts to discredit stereotypes about homosexuals, he found their division of homosexuals into different "types" to be in effect the creation of a new set of stereotypes. He called Bell and Weinberg's typology of homosexuals "arbitrary and misleading." Morin argued that while Homosexualities was a "fine historical document", its data only reflected the situation in San Francisco in 1969 and 1970. He denied that Bell and Weinberg had a representative sample, suggesting that a representative sample of homosexuals was impossible given that they were "basically an invisible population". He accused Bell and Weinberg of drawing "conclusions well beyond their data." Overall, Morin considered Homosexualities a helpful work, and useful on a political level, but not "a sophisticated research study". He wrote that the book was "disappointing and consistent with the downward trend in the quality of reports emanating from the Institute for Sex Research", and criticized Bell and Weinberg for ignoring "issues of growth and the ways in which diversity may lead to insights which might be helpful to all men and women exploring the creative violation of sex roles."
The psychologist John P. DeCecco, writing in the Journal of Sex Research in 1982, dismissed Homosexualities. He wrote that while Bell and Weinberg presented it as a definitive study of homosexuality, it was a hurried retreat "behind computer statistics" and suffered from the "theoretical blindness" that has dominated research on homosexuality in the United States since the early 1970s. He contrasted Bell and Weinberg's work unfavorably with that of European thinkers whom he credited with "provocative theoretical speculations", such as the philosophers Michel Foucault and Guy Hocquenghem, the gay rights activist Mario Mieli, the sexologist Martin Dannecker, and the historian and sociologist Jeffrey Weeks.
In 1984, the philosopher Michael Levin criticized Homosexualities in The Monist, writing that Bell and Weinberg used a non-random sample, and were credulous about their informants' reports. He found studies that relied on self-reports to be questionable when they concerned homosexuality, and accused Bell and Weinberg of employing special pleading and circular reasoning.
In 1978, Homosexualities received a negative review from Michael Lynch in The Body Politic. It was also reviewed by Norman C. Murphy in The Advocate. With Dean Gengle, Murphy presented a discussion with Bell about his book. Lynch argued that Homosexualities was in part an attempt by Bell and Weinberg to overcome statistical weaknesses in the work of Kinsey and his colleagues, and that as a result Bell and Weinberg had put more effort into "data processing" than into "understanding the premises and conclusions of the study." Lynch suggested that Bell and Weinberg were "sometimes silently at odds" with Kinsey and his colleagues, and that they had limited their accomplishments by beginning with an attempt to test negative stereotypes about gay people. Lynch criticized Bell and Weinberg for using language that contained implied value judgments, and suggested that their division of homosexuals into five different "types" was a value-laden classification. Lynch disagreed with what he saw as Bell and Weinberg's attempt to "demote the sense of unified or shared experience among gays", and criticized their failure to "attempt to delineate the experience we all share." He maintained that because Bell and Weinberg's respondents were mainly middle class, Bell and Weinberg were unable to further explore Kinsey's findings about "the division of sexual and sex-related behavior based on class." Lynch considered Bell and Weinberg naive to believe that Homosexualities would make legislators and community leaders change their negative attitudes to gay people.
Evaluations in booksEdit
The philosopher Lee C. Rice called Homosexualities "a monumentally important study" whose authors put to rest "many psychological myths about the gay personality" and make "many tentative suggestions for the development and sharpening of new concepts to deal with human sexuality". The gay rights activist Dennis Altman found the book to be a typical example of how research into homosexuality is justified in terms of legitimizing the homosexual life style. Altman noted that Bell and Weinberg's finding that homosexuality is not necessarily related to pathology did not call into question either the concept of pathology or the ability of psychologists to determine it. He suggested that like many other studies of homosexuality, the book appealed to "people who need to combat the way we have been stigmatized by one set of experts with the reassurances of another." Altman also found its authors to be "heavily influenced by conventional assumptions about relationships and happiness."
Duberman wrote that in 1976, prior to the publication of Homosexualities, he heard a rumor that "Bell's soon-to-appear study on the etiology of male homosexuality, in preparation more than ten years, would give renewed respectability to the long dominant but recently challenged psychoanalytic view (associated primarily with the work of Charles Socarides and Irving Bieber), that the parental configuration of absent/hostile/remote father and binding/suffocating/domineering mother was what produced gay sons." Duberman related that when he met Bell that year and asked him whether the rumor was correct, Bell "squirmed uncomfortably" and gave "a long-winded, evasive reply." According to Duberman, "I finally got him [Bell] to say that he had tentatively concluded that "estrangement from the father (irrespective of the mother's "binding" love or lack of it) was likely to produce a homosexual son; and that estrangement from the mother could be directly correlated with a heterosexual outcome for the son." According to Duberman, Bell was "not amused" by his criticism of this conclusion. Duberman added that Homosexualities surprised him in 1978 because it "avoided the question of etiology" and "was a work of considerable substance."
The sociologists Edward Laumann and John Gagnon, and their co-authors, wrote that while Bell and Weinberg covered a wide range of sexual behaviors, their failure to use probability samples meant that their study "could not be used to estimate population rates." Laumann et al. nevertheless found Homosexualities to be of value in planning their own study. The psychologist Jim McKnight wrote that while the idea that bisexuality is a form of sexual orientation intermediate between homosexuality and heterosexuality is implicit in the Kinsey scale, that conception of bisexuality was brought into question by the publication of Homosexualities and is now "severely challenged". The philosopher Timothy F. Murphy called Homosexualities an important study of homosexuality, commenting that despite its limitations, flaws, and incompleteness, it is useful, provided that it, like other studies, is regarded as part of a scientific process of "measuring the adequacy of hypotheses and evidence" rather than as a "window opening on veridical truth".
The psychologists Stanton L. Jones and Mark A. Yarhouse observed that Homosexualities is one of the most influential studies ever conducted on homosexuality, but that like several other iconic studies, including those by Hooker, Kinsey, J. Michael Bailey, and Richard Pillard, its authors' conclusions were based on convenience samples, which have no known representativeness. They nevertheless consulted Bell and Weinberg's interview protocols when developing a questionnaire for their own study of ex-gays.
Several authors have stated that Bell and Weinberg's findings are outdated. The philosopher Michael Ruse, writing in Homosexuality: A Philosophical Inquiry (1988), suggested that the AIDS epidemic, which began after Bell and Weinberg's book was published, has probably made their picture of gay sexual behavior obsolete. The philosopher John Corvino wrote that Homosexualities is the study most commonly cited to prove that gay men are sexually promiscuous, but that it was not based on a broad sample and that a more recent and extensive University of Chicago study, Edward Laumann et al.′s The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States, produced different results. Laumann et al. found that gay and bisexual men reported an average of 3.1 sex partners in the previous 12 months in 1994, well above the 1.8 reported by heterosexual men, but far fewer than was the norm in some urban gay communities in the pre-AIDS era. Murphy wrote that Bell and Weinberg studied people who came of age before gay liberation, and that probably a much smaller proportion of gays would now be dissatisfied with their sexual orientation or interested in attempting to change it through therapy.
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- Bayer, Ronald (1987). Homosexuality and American Psychiatry: The Politics of Diagnosis. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-02837-8.
- Bell, Alan P.; Weinberg, Martin S. (1972). Homosexuality: An Annotated Bibliography. New York: Harper & Row. ISBN 978-0-06-014541-5.
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- Boxley, Russell (1979). "Homosexualities: A Study of Diversity Among Men and Women". Journal of Homosexuality. 4 (3). – via EBSCO's Academic Search Complete (subscription required)
- Carrier, Joseph M. (1979). "Homosexualities: A Study of Diversity Among Men and Women". Journal of Homosexuality. 4 (3). – via EBSCO's Academic Search Complete (subscription required)
- Curtis, John H. (1979). "Homosexualities—A Study of Diversity Among Men and Women". American Journal of Family Therapy. 7 (2). – via EBSCO's Academic Search Complete (subscription required)
- DeCecco, John P. (1982). "Review of Theories of Homosexuality by Martin Dannecker". The Journal of Sex Research. 18 (3).
- Gengle, Dean; Murphy, Norman C. (1978). "Alan Bell Discovers Our Diversity". The Advocate (254). – via EBSCO's Academic Search Complete (subscription required)
- Hall, Richard (1978). "Homosexualities: A Study of Diversity Among Men and Women". The New Republic. 179 (14). – via EBSCO's Academic Search Complete (subscription required)
- Lynch, Michael (1978). "The uses of diversity". The Body Politic (47). – via EBSCO's Academic Search Complete (subscription required)
- Morin, Stephen F. (1979). "Homosexualities: A Study of Diversity Among Men and Women". Sex Roles. 5 (5). – via EBSCO's Academic Search Complete (subscription required)
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- Online articles
- McCoubrey, Carmel (May 2002). "Alan P. Bell, 70, Researcher Of Influences on Homosexuality". The New York Times. Retrieved September 11, 2016.