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Homosexualities: A Study of Diversity Among Men and Women

Homosexualities: A Study of Diversity Among Men and Women (1978) is a book by the psychologist Alan P. Bell and the sociologist Martin S. Weinberg, in which the authors argue that homosexuality is not necessarily related to pathology and divide homosexuals into five different types. 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.

Homosexualities: A Study of Diversity Among Men and Women
Homosexualities (first edition).jpg
Cover of the first edition
AuthorsAlan P. Bell
Martin S. Weinberg
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
SubjectHomosexuality
PublisherSimon & Schuster
Publication date
1978
Media typePrint (Hardcover and Paperback)
Pages505
ISBN978-0671251505

The book received much attention and mixed reviews. It received praise for its authors' attempts to discredit stereotypes about homosexuals, became influential, and has been seen as a classic work. However, it was criticized for its authors' sampling methods and their typology of homosexuals, which has been seen as arbitrary and misleading. Some commentators suggested that some of Bell and Weinberg's findings were obvious and that their study was not needed to establish them, and critics charged that they drew conclusions not justified by their data. Some of their findings, such as those about gay men's sexual behavior, have become dated due to social changes since the 1970s, such as those brought about by the AIDS epidemic and the progress of the gay rights movement.

Contents

BackgroundEdit

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.[1][2][3]

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."[4]

Homosexualities was part of a series of books that resulted from what Bell and Weinberg called the San Francisco Study.[5] The series began with Homosexuality: An Annotated Bibliography in 1972 and culminated in the publication of Sexual Preference in 1981.[6][7] 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,[8] which was a survey of gay men and lesbians carried out in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1969 and 1970.[9]

SummaryEdit

Bell and Weinberg write that their study has several purposes, including describing homosexual sexual behavior, examining stereotypes about homosexuals, and exploring "the relationship between homosexuals' sexual life-styles and their social and psychological adjustment". They note that their work is based on a nonrepresentative sample, and argue that a representative sample is unnecessary for their purposes. They also argue that several different types of homosexual should be distinguished.[10]

Publication historyEdit

Homosexualities was first published by Simon & Schuster in 1978. The book was also published by the Macmillan Company of Australia Pty Ltd in 1978.[11]

ReceptionEdit

Mainstream mediaEdit

Homosexualities received a positive review from the novelist Richard Hall in The New Republic and a mixed review from the historian Martin Duberman in The New York Times.[12][13]

Hall praised the book for helping to counter the image of homosexuals as "dysfunctionals", and believed that it would be useful for jurists, employers, educators, and legislators. However, he considered its authors' conclusion that there is no necessary connection between homosexuality and unhappiness "a truism of the kind that any good novelist could flesh out in a year or less", describing the fact that it took them ten years of research to support it as "a sad commentary on the cumbersome procedures of the social scientists." He argued that the fact that the study took so long to be published diminished its relevance, despite its authors' assertions to the contrary, and criticized the work for its dryness and failure to provide case histories or any "feeling for the dynamics, the interactions of the lives described." He noted that despite the fact that some of the questions employed in the study were open-ended, there were "only brief and unenlightening answers." He also questioned whether it was useful to classify homosexuals into different types.[12]

Duberman characterized the book as "the most ambitious study" of male homosexuality yet attempted, but was critical of its authors' "sample techniques and simplistic typologies" and saw their work as part of "sexology's mainstream", believing that while most gays would welcome their conclusion that gays differ little from "mainstream Americans", gay radicals would be angered. He suggested that they offered a "sanitized" version of gay experience.[13] 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), it "refuted a large number of previous studies that gay men were social misfits".[14]

Scientific and academic journalsEdit

Homosexualities received a positive review from Clarissa K. Wittenberg in Psychiatric News, the official newsletter of the American Psychiatric Association,[15] and a mixed review from Stephen F. Morin in Sex Roles.[16] The book was also reviewed by John H. Curtis in the American Journal of Family Therapy,[17] and discussed by the psychologist John Paul De Cecco in the Journal of Sex Research and the philosopher Michael Levin in The Monist.[18][19] It received two reviews in the Journal of Homosexuality, one by Russell Boxley,[20] and the other by Joseph M. Carrier.[21]

Wittenberg wrote that the book was certain to become an instant classic and that it fully deserved this status.[15] Morin described the book as a "long-awaited publication", but did not consider its authors' findings surprising. He 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." He argued that while the book 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, and suggested that a representative sample of homosexuals was impossible given that they were "basically an invisible population". He also accused Bell and Weinberg of drawing "conclusions well beyond their data." While he considered Homosexualities a helpful work, and useful on a political level, he did not consider it "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."[16]

De Cecco dismissed the book, writing 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 it 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.[18]

Levin noted that the book received much attention. However, he criticized Bell and Weinberg for using a non-random sample, being credulous about their informants' reports, employing special pleading and circular reasoning, seeking to demonstrate preferred conclusions, and making misleading use of statistics. In his view, despite their intentions, their data suggests that homosexuality inevitably leads to unhappiness. He argued that their finding that most homosexuals reported that they were in good health was inconsistent with their finding that most homosexuals "spend 3 or more nights a week out." He also pointed to their findings that 27% of homosexuals experience "either some or a great deal of regret about being homosexual", that 56% of homosexuals "usually spend several hours or less with a partner", and that homosexuals tend to be sexually promiscuous, arguing that such promiscuity suggests "maladjustment and compulsivity". He argued that their finding that some homosexuals are "close-coupled" did not show that homosexuality is not pathological, and that they misled their readers by claiming that "close-coupled homosexuals are on average as happy and well-adjusted as heterosexuals." Levin added that while Bell and Weinberg "created a stir when they published further results of their interviews" with their sample in Homosexualities because they seemed to show that the families of homosexuals are no different than those of heterosexuals, and in particular that there is no "preponderance of weak fathers", the value of their evidence was questionable.[19]

Gay mediaEdit

Homosexualities received a negative review from Michael Lynch in The Body Politic.[22] The book was also reviewed by Norman C. Murphy in The Advocate.[23] With Dean Gengle, Murphy presented a discussion with Bell about his book.[24]

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 they had put more effort into "data processing" than into "understanding the premises and conclusions of the study." He suggested that they 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. He criticized them for using language that contained implied value judgments, and suggested that their division of homosexuals into five different "types" was a value-laden classification. He disagreed with what he considered their 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 their respondents were mainly middle class, they were unable to further explore Kinsey's findings about "the division of sexual and sex-related behavior based on class." He considered them naive to believe that Homosexualities would make legislators and community leaders change their negative attitudes to gay people.[22]

Evaluations in booksEdit

The philosopher Lee C. Rice described Homosexualities as an important study in the anthology Philosophy of Sex: Contemporary Readings (1980). He credited its authors with discrediting "myths about the gay personality".[25] The gay rights activist Dennis Altman described Homosexualities as a typical example of how research into homosexuality is justified in terms of legitimizing the homosexual lifestyle in The Homosexualization of America (1982). He 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 similar studies, Homosexualities appealed to "people who need to combat the way we have been stigmatized by one set of experts with the reassurances of another." He considered its authors "influenced by conventional assumptions about relationships and happiness."[26] The psychologist William Paul and the sex researcher Weinrich maintained in the anthology Homosexuality: Social, Psychological, and Biological Issues (1982) that Homosexualities documented social diversity well and was the largest study conducted specifically on homosexuality, but that it was limited by the problems of trying to obtain a representative sample. They suggested that because its data was collected in 1969, its authors may have missed "growing cultural developments in the gay younger generation of the late 1960s and early 1970s."[27] The philosopher Michael Ruse suggested in Homosexuality: A Philosophical Inquiry (1988) that the AIDS epidemic, which began after Homosexualities was published, has probably made Bell and Weinberg's findings about gay sexual behavior obsolete.[28]

The sociologists Edward Laumann and John Gagnon, and their co-authors argued in The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States (1994) 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." They nevertheless found Homosexualities to be of value in planning their own study.[29] Duberman observed in Midlife Queer: Autobiography of a Decade, 1971–1981 (1996) 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."[30]

The philosopher John Corvino wrote in The Philosophy of Sex: Contemporary Readings (1997) 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 Laumann's more extensive study produced different results.[31] The psychologist Jim McKnight stated in Straight Science? Homosexuality, Evolution and Adaptation (1997) that while the idea that bisexuality is a form of sexual orientation intermediate between homosexuality and heterosexuality is implicit in the Kinsey scale, that view was brought into question by the publication of Homosexualities and is now "severely challenged".[32] The philosopher Timothy F. Murphy described Homosexualities as an important study of homosexuality in Gay Science (1997), commenting that despite its limitations 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". He added 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.[33] The psychologists Stanton L. Jones and Mark A. Yarhouse observed in Ex-gays? A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation (2007) that Homosexualities is one of the most influential studies ever conducted on homosexuality, but that like several other influential 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.[34]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

FootnotesEdit

  1. ^ Kinsey, Pomeroy & Martin 1948, p. ii.
  2. ^ Kinsey et al. 1953, p. iv.
  3. ^ Bell & Weinberg 1978, pp. 9-14.
  4. ^ Bell & Weinberg 1978, pp. 14–15, 491.
  5. ^ Bell & Weinberg 1978, p. 25.
  6. ^ Bell & Weinberg 1972, p. iv.
  7. ^ Bell, Weinberg & Hammersmith 1981, pp. iv, 238.
  8. ^ Bell & Weinberg 1978, pp. 10, 22.
  9. ^ LeVay & Nonas 1995, p. 62.
  10. ^ Bell & Weinberg 1978, pp. 21-23.
  11. ^ Bell & Weinberg 1978, p. 4.
  12. ^ a b Hall 1978, pp. 31-33.
  13. ^ a b Duberman 1996, pp. 45-46.
  14. ^ McCoubrey 2002.
  15. ^ a b Bayer 1987, p. 187.
  16. ^ a b Morin 1979, pp. 670-672.
  17. ^ Curtis 1979, pp. 101–102.
  18. ^ a b DeCecco 1982, p. 282.
  19. ^ a b Levin 1997, pp. 120-122.
  20. ^ Boxley 1979, pp. 293-295.
  21. ^ Carrier 1979, pp. 296-298.
  22. ^ a b Lynch 1978, p. 37.
  23. ^ Murphy 1978, p. 22.
  24. ^ Gengle & Murphy 1978, p. 21.
  25. ^ Rice 1980, p. 280.
  26. ^ Altman 1982, pp. 52–53, 189.
  27. ^ Paul & Weinrich 1982, pp. 26–27.
  28. ^ Ruse 1988, pp. 9–10.
  29. ^ Laumann et al. 1994, p. 36.
  30. ^ Duberman 1996, p. 45.
  31. ^ Corvino 1997, p. 147.
  32. ^ McKnight 1997, p. 33.
  33. ^ Murphy 1997, pp. 60, 100.
  34. ^ Jones & Yarhouse 2007, pp. 19, 133–134, 388, 399.

BibliographyEdit

Books
Journals
  • 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)
  • Murphy, Norman C. (1978). "Homosexualities: A Study of Diversity Among Men and Women". The Advocate (254).  – via EBSCO's Academic Search Complete (subscription required)
Online articles