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Sissy Boy Syndrome?

[ 189 ] January 12, 2014 |

Read this and be legitimately appalled, but also note that the writers and contributors almost certainly viewed it as a progressive contribution:

In many cases parents either overtly or subtly encouraged the feminine behavior. But when parents actively discouraged it and took other steps to enhance a male self-concept, homosexual tendencies of the feminine boys were lessened, although not necessarily reversed. Neither did professional counseling divert a tendency toward homosexuality, although it resulted in more conventional masculine behavior and enhanced the boys’ social and pyschological adjustment and comfort with being male.

The study was conducted by Dr. Richard Green, a noted sex researcher who is professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles and director of its Program in Psychiatry, Law and Human Sexuality. Details of the findings and implications are described in Dr. Green’s new book, ”The ‘Sissy Boy Syndrome’ and the Development of Homosexuality,” to be published in February by Yale University Press.

Although the study examined extreme cases of boyhood effeminacy, Dr. Green believes the findings may have relevance to lesser degrees of feminine behavior in boys. Such boys, who may, for example, be athletically inept or prefer music to cars and trucks, often have difficulty making friends with other boys and identifying with typically male activities. Dr. Green suggested that to help the boys think of themselves as male, parents might assist them in finding boy friends who are similarly unaggressive and that the fathers might share in activities the boys enjoy, such as going to the zoo or a concert, rather than insist on taking the boys to athletic events. Counseling to guide such parents and enhance the child’s masculine self-image may also be helpful, Dr. Green said.

The study did not examine the development of homosexuality in boys whose childhoods are typically masculine. About one-third of homosexual men recall such masculine boyhoods. Nor does the study suggest that all boys with the sissy-boy syndrome are destined for homosexuality. Indeed, one-fourth of the extremely feminine boys followed to maturity developed as heterosexuals.

The “athletically inept or prefer music to cars and trucks” line inevitably reminded me of this:

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  1. Aimai says:

    Woah. I the reporters seem to think the study is a triumph of nature over nurture, and a step forward since for once the mothers aren’t blamed. But the scapegoating of the fathers and the emphasis on a freudian model of sexuality and the father? Creepy. And Retrograde.

    As have other recent investigations, including the Kinsey study, the new research challenges long-held psychoanalytic beliefs that dominant, overprotecting mothers and ineffectual fathers are primary ”causes” of a son’s homosexuality.

    Rather, the study suggests that some boys are born with an indifference to rough-and-tumble play and other typical boyhood interests and that this indifference alienates and isolates them from their male peers and often from their fathers as well. Dr. Green believes that such boys may grow up ”starved” for male affection, which prompts them to seek love from men in adolescence and adulthood. To Dr. Bell, however, a sense of difference and social distance from males during childhood is what leads to the romantic and erotic attraction to other males. Tomboys Now Being Studied

    Dr. Richard Isay, a New York psychoanalyst whose practice is largely homosexual men, said: ”I would agree with Dr. Green. I too see no support for the notion that binding mothers produce homosexual sons, nor do I see any consistent pattern for absent fathers that I don’t also see among heterosexual men in analysis.” Dr. Isay, who is affiliated with Columbia Psychoanalytic Institute and New York-Cornell Medical School, suggested that the common depiction among homosexual men of an absent, distant father is in fact a defense against an underlying erotic attachment to their fathers.

    • MAJeff says:

      Who has those long-held Freudian beliefs?

      Seriously, the only realm in which that seems to still be taken seriously is the anti-gay right with their obsession over “appropriate” gender roles and sexuality?

      • Manny Kant says:

        The article’s from 1986.

        • JazzBumpa says:

          I didn’t notice he date, but as I was reading felt that this was really some sort of blast from the past.

          Glad you pointed that out.

          • Aimai says:

            Good god, is it really? That explains the time warpy feeling. I feel a lot better now. Of course, I was 26 in 1986 so its not that long ago. But the kind of people who were important doctors and researchers then were a lot older and had been trained in an archaic way.

        • DocAmazing says:

          That’s the scary part. I could see it if it were from 1926 or 1956, but for someone to be promulgating that shit in 1986–and being taken seriously–is mind-boggling.

          • Abigail says:

            Precisely. I assumed the article wasn’t current because it cited a reputable university that presumably wouldn’t be putting its name to this kind of research today. But my guess would have been 60s-ish – in which context, I thought the researchers could at least be credited with having benevolent intentions. But to still be peddling this stuff in 1986?

            • joe from Lowell says:

              “Still?”

              This piece wasn’t a holdover in 1986.

              In 1986, the idea that people were born gay, that it was an innate part of their identity, was radically ahead of the curve.

              • Rarely Posts says:

                Yeah, I kinda wish my parents had read this article in 1986, back when I was a kid.

                • Rarely Posts says:

                  Not that it’s accurate, but because it at least encourages the parents to let boys not act hyper-macho and to encourage friendships between “sissy” boys, instead of pressure to be on the football team.

              • efgoldman says:

                In 1986, the idea that people were born gay, that it was an innate part of their identity, was radically ahead of the curve.

                Yes.
                We forget how relatively quickly the science and society have evolved. After all, the Goodridge decision in MA was barely ten years ago.

    • Hogan says:

      long-held psychoanalytic beliefs

      So this is an argument among psychoanalysts about the causes of homosexuality? Great. (Go it, husband! Go it, bear!) I’m going to go find something interesting and relevant to read about, like the latest developments in Lutheran sacramental theology.

  2. Aimai says:

    Now that I’ve read the entire article I can honestly say that I am physically nauseated–especially by the use of the word “sissy” without any scare quotes around it. and also by the researcher’s ready acceptance of the idea that if a child is sick, like hospital level sick, fathers will neglect the more “feminine” boy and leave the majority of the care to the mother. Given the extremely small nature of the study, and the self selection of its participants, its hard to see any justification for the publiciation of its results in the first place. But its beyond creepy in its attempt to “excuse” parents from being “at fault” in failing to properly canalize their child’s sexuality into a binary mode. Aren’t we past that? Shouldn’t we be past that? If you put anything else in there besides sexuality–eye color, left or right handedness, or religion wouldn’t we be appalled by the idea that there is one right way and everything else is deviance?

    • MAJeff says:

      Given the extremely small nature of the study, and the self selection of its participants, its hard to see any justification for the publiciation of its results in the first place

      You provided the answer in your first comment: it’s psychoanalysts working in a Freudian tradition. For them n=2 is huge.

    • Ronan says:

      ” Aren’t we past that? Shouldn’t we be past that? I2

      the article is from 1986 though ..

    • ploeg says:

      Aren’t we past that? Shouldn’t we be past that? 

      Perhaps. The article is from 1986 after all. However, we have been surprised before.

    • Matthew says:

      I don’t like the language but the intent is actually important. So much of the modern renaissance on LGTQ rights is a result of the widespread acceptance that people “are just born that way.”

      Your entire response, the comparison to eye color, left handedness (religion is a terrible example, kidnap a baby from a Buddhist country and give him to Baptist parents and the kid will grow Baptist.) is premised on the “Just born that way” idea. Which was still being debated when this was run. (80 years ago, a lot of schools would hit you for writing with the left hand and “Left” means “bad/strange” in both Latin and Chinese.)

      The road to that idea runs through studies like this one. Someone did need to do a study on parenting and homosexuality, if only to disprove the idea that parents can somehow change their kids’ eventual sexuality. Which this one seems to have done.

      There’s a reason that modern science takes a dim view of “pray the gay away” and “aversion therapy” and that’s because 30 years ago someone did a study on whether different parenting styles can change can change a non gender conforming child’s eventual sexuality.

      Basically, if this study made you physically ill, imagine a world where the surgeon general in 2013 is telling fathers to take their boys on more hunting trips because that’ll “toughen the gay right out of them.”

      • Aimai says:

        Yes, I was well aware of the use of social correction for “handedness” and, of course, depsite the fact that religion is nominally seen as a choice certain religious communities have been enforcing conformity on religious identity and dogma for the same amount of time–children are put into school and corrected when they deviate for religious conformity as much as they ever have been for gender non conformity. Its just that we don’t always recognize that as an issue.

        So, yes, I can see the significance of this research as, in a sense, progressive, given that background. My original comment assumed that it was a current article. My bad!

      • Steve LaBonne says:

        I get a little uncomfortable with the “born that way” emphasis . First, like any blanket statement about complex human behavior, it’s at best a half-truth. But more importantly, it has a hard to escape connotation that being gay is something negative which can only be excused if it’s unavoidable, which is a pretty offensive implication. If there is any degree to which people CAN choose to be gay, they have every damn right to so choose without any apologies whatsoever. But then I’m a hopelessly unathletic, music-loving sissy boy so what do I know. ;)

      • MAJeff says:

        Back in the early-mid 1990s, there was a humor book called Who Cares if it’s a Choice? That’s my perspective. Whether it’s a lifelong desire for members of the same sex or a conference fling, who the fuck cares why? Don’t matter: freedom!

        • Aimai says:

          I agree with both MassJeff and Steve La Bonne, I get why the pushback on “its a sin” had to be, originally “born that way” but we are also past that argument by this time. For one thing the population isn’t as priest ridden and sin focused as it used to be so we aren’t having that conversation with everyone, just with some portion of society.

          There were a whole lot of conversations going on, to use that locution for cultural conflict, that revolved around the psyche, the idea of the rights of the individual to be an individual (rather than to act out an insantiation of a type), good and evil, free will, etc..etc..etc… which you still find today on the wingnut side of the discussion. But they aren’t relevant to the way most of us are living our lives at this point.

          I mean–you still find right wingers and christianists blubbering over psychoanalysis and freud because they were afraid that it meant society was not going to spend a lot of energy determining what was “evil” and then punishing it. What was going to be the fun of having a big book of sins and orders and punishing yourself for violating the rules if society wasn’t going to back you up and also punish other people for not following your lead? As we look back on freud and freudianism its easy to be revolted by its sexism, homophobia, and other retrograde assumptions but it also challenged assumptions about morality, identity, individualism, and society in ways that religious orthodoxy hated and still hate.

          • JazzBumpa says:

            Unfortunately, that segment of society is the entire Republican party and a large population block in many Southern States.

            So, sadly, no – we are not past that argument, and won’t be for decades, if ever.

        • Lurker says:

          From your perspective, you are of course right. No one has the right to regulate other people’s sex life, as long as it is based on consent by everyone involved.

          However, this is only one view on things. Traditionally, it has been considered the society’s right to enforce public morality. With certain religious mindsets, it is even a question of public safety: a non-checked public immorality will trigger divine retribution. (Of course, as sensible modern people, that is not our mindset, but it still exists, even in Western world.) If you adopt this approach, then it matters whether “it’s a choice”. In such case, homosexuality as an inborn quality is unavoidable and it can be argued that it cannot be regulated by society. If it is seen as a choice, however, it can be argued that it is a conscious vice that can be eradicated by enforcing anti-sodomy laws.

          This is not just theoretical speculation. For example Russia adopts the latter position, and the Russian government considers homosexuality a vice consciously spread by Western propaganda. If someone claims choosing homosexuality, he is giving ammunition for those thugs.

        • Ronan says:

          i guess its important as a bitof research that adds to the wealth of human knowledge. it has no real practical benefit though i wouldnt think

        • rea says:

          I suspect–fom the inside–that it’s a hell of a lot more complicated than simply “choice” or “born that way.”

        • Rarely Posts says:

          Respectfully, I somewhat disagree. Whether or not it’s a choice does has legal and policy implications, but setting that aside, it’s also crucial for the mental health profession to try to examine and answer the question accurately.

          Whether or not it’s generally* a choice has a huge impact on how people go around making or experiencing that choice. Today, if a person with strong homosexual desires goes to a licensed mental health professional and states “I want to change my sexual orientation,” most such professionals will explain that most people benefit from trying to accept their homosexual desires, and that few people successfully transition to a different sexual orientation. That’s crucial to helping people develop a healthy, comfortable self-identity and life experience. If people really could choose their sexual orientations, then it would be the wrong response. Because the majority of people don’t seem to be able to, it’s good to have the mental health community help people understand and accept their sexual orientations.

          * Of course, everyone has the right to experience their sexual orientation. But we’re highly social animals with relatively complex and confusing mental landscapes, and we’re only on this rock for a limited period of time. It’s invaluable to have mental health professionals providing accurate information about the general experience of different life experiences because it helps many people live better lives.

          • Rarely Posts says:

            I say this as a homosexual who very much has not experienced by sexuality as a “choice.” It feels far more like a “natural” or “hormonal” experience, triggered (in my case) at puberty. Experiencing my orientation that way has been liberating and also simply my authentic experience.

            When I first started having those feelings (the early ’90s), I began researching the issue. The medical society’s consensus seemed to be that it was not a “choice.” I found that helpful in understanding my own experience. It also significantly helped my family to hear from a mental health professional that this was not a condition that could be “cured.”

            • Another Holocene Human says:

              Thanks for your input.

              One issue that muddies the water a lot is the “invisibleness” of bisexuality, bisexuality not labeled as such, bisexuals projecting their personal experiences on everyone, while non-bisexuals perceive bisexuals as flighty or liars.

              Kinsey revealed decades ago that human sexual orientation lies on a spectrum. One person may experience their sexuality as fluid and another may experience it as fixed. Both of these experiences are valid.

              What is not cool is trying to rub out and erase other peoples’ experiences and identities because of your canon of personal incredulity. It’s funny how people with their heads furthest up their asses try to shout down others.

              I think there needs to be a bisexual coming out, just like there was a gay/lesbian coming out. Coming out means acknowledging that you ARE different from others and sharing your perspective from that vantage point. A bisexual who does NOT come out or does not complete that process comes to believe their very personal, idiosyncratic sexual experiences in their 20s are universal and provide sufficient explanatory power for the behavior of others. They do not. And refusing to come out has consequences for how non-bisexuals (whether heterosexual or homosexual) perceive and treat other bisexual people.

              • Rarely Posts says:

                Yes, and I don’t mean to negate bisexuality. That’s one reason I try to talk about it as “sexual orientation,” as opposed to “homosexuality.” Many therapists would agree that trying to change from “bisexual” to “heterosexual” or “homosexual” is also counter-productive (though, of course, one may choose to only present as one or the other). For that matter, I suspect no therapists would recommend that a “heterosexual” should try to become a “bisexual” or “homosexual.”

                One tricky thing with “bisexuality” is that lots of men (and perhaps women) who end up identifying as “homosexual” go through a stage in which they identify as “bisexual.” I think that, to the extent that many homosexuals are sometimes dismissive of bisexuality, it’s because they’re remembering that stage or lovers who went through such a stage. It’s also a rough time to date a person. Of course, it’s always a mistake to make assumptions about everyone else’s experience based solely on your own. Bisexuality is a real phenomena far beyond simply a “way station” for homosexuals.

                Another tricky thing is that, unlike homosexuality, active bisexuality does not generally lend itself to single-couple monogamy, which remains a major social norm and desired outcome for lots of people. It’s difficult for a person to be a “bisexual” (at least in their current sexual practices) and remain monogamous to one person. It also doesn’t fit into the movement’s current focus on marriage equality–in which the goal is to emphasize that equal marriage doesn’t require reconsidering monogamy as an element of marriage. As such, it tends to be negated because bisexuals in monogamous relationships are easily identified as either heterosexual or homosexual.

                And finally, the fluidity of sexuality is a hard thing to assess accurately (it’s my impression that Kinsey’s work doesn’t hold up so well in retrospect), and it is my general impression that many women seem to experience a more “fluid” sexual orientation than men. Of course, that may be a product of social conditioning – I don’t know.

                All of these are reasons that the movement was wise to eventually embrace LGBT and LGBTQ as it’s official goal. We’re should all hang together. But, one consequence is that the “B” is often least paid attention to.

                • Origami Isopod says:

                  It’s difficult for a person to be a “bisexual” (at least in their current sexual practices) and remain monogamous to one person.

                  Orientation is not lifestyle. I know more than a few bisexual people who are monogamous and faithful.

            • Aimai says:

              Very important points. I think the pushback on choice/not choice doesnt come from only one place, however. Its not just a response to nature or nurture and not just a response to free will vs materialist notions of sin. Doesn’t it also arise as a pushback against a model of homosexuality in which it is seen as so awful that. “No one would choose it?” Gay people have written some incredible and beautiful affirmations of their right to choose to enjoy or celebrate their sexual orientation. I see the choice argument as part of a continuum of arguments people have with different people over the course of their lives or in different social, legal, moral, settings. Sometimes you need to be having one conversation and sometimes you need another. I’m def. het but i dont talk about my relationship with my husband as compulsory–its natural, desirable, beautiful, and also a free choice. This is, maybe, a natural next step in talking to people who acknowledge a biological basis for sexual orientation(necessity) but who refuse to entertain the notion that the individual has a right to pursue personal happiness by actually consummating their desires.

              • Rarely Posts says:

                I recognize that there are strong arguments for “choice,” and I also recognize that some people do experience their orientations as a choice. My primary reason for pushing back on it is that, to my knowledge, the majority of evidence strongly suggests that the majority of people do not experience sexual orientation as a choice. I find such research very valuable and potentially very valuable in understanding humanity in general. Of course, the science is not certain, and I don’t think there is any evidence that suggests that no one experiences it as a “choice.” So, it’s important to recognize that the general rule may not be true for everyone, and there’s nothing wrong with being outside of it. Still, I think that the general rule helps both mental health professionals and everyday people tackle these issues in an informed way.

                Personally, as a matter of rhetoric, I am far more comfortable saying that I should have the right to “celebrate” and “enjoy” my homosexual feelings and experience, and I don’t think that it needs to be something that I chose to emphasize that.

                Finally, I’d just note that the argument that the majority of people don’t experience their sexual orientation as a “choice” doesn’t answer the question of nature vs. nurture. The evidence is fairly solid that, whatever causes sexual orientation, for lots of people their sexual orientation becomes fairly unchangeable early in life. However, the evidence is a lot less clear on what the cause is, and the likelihood is that there are a lot of causes (genetics, the environment in utero, hormones, the environment in early childhood, etc.). I suspect that, like many factors, it’s influenced by lots of things. But, for the majority of people, it’s not something they can change when they’re older.

            • Barry Freed says:

              I’ve always thought of it in terms of desire rather than orientation. Desire gives one no choice. It’s an ontological quality. Desire finds its object and brooks no arguments. Whether it’s a gene or not doesn’t seem to matter to me. But I’ve never felt any choice in feeling the way I do about my attraction to the opposite sex and I couldn’t feel differently if I tried. Everyone is different of course but this is an aspect of existence that seems to me to be a common universal ground.

            • MAJeff says:

              I have a similar experience.

              I also have a relative who was “straight” her whole life. Well, until she was going through her divorce. Then, her best friend became her confidante became her lover. Twenty years later, they’re legally married in both of the states where they have homes (HI/WA) and they identify as lesbians. When they first told me about their relationship, I asked, “Are you lesbians, bisexual, heterosexual women in a relationship?” and their answer was “We don’t know!”

              I don’t think either of them would say they “discovered” their “true” sexuality later in life. For both of them, it was their relationship that preceded their sexual identity, if that makes any sense.

              That’s why I’m in the “who cares if it’s a choice” camp. My experience of a basic desire that’s never wavered is as authentic as my relatives who, but for one person, may never have “strayed” from the “straight (but not) narrow” path.

              • Barry Freed says:

                Just to bring this back to the only thing that really matters :) Your relative’s experience is how I think of Willow in BtVS. Her first serious relationship with Oz is no less real or negated by her subsequent serious and real relationships with Tara and Kennedy.

  3. Vance Maverick says:

    While I’m a bit surprised at the late date on this article, and the benign, familiar byline, I was more curious about how Farley came across it. Now that I search a bit, it looks like the rediscoverer is Josh Barro.

    (Also, is the spelling “effeminancy” a typesetter’s joke?)

  4. Hogan says:

    Turns out Green was one of the strongest advocates of delisting homosexuality as a mental disorder in the DSM. (He also appeared on a panel show on WGBH advocating the legalization of same-sex marriage. In 1974.) Using “sissy” and “tomboy” as terms of scholarly analysis is not cool, but he still wouldn’t be welcome at the Family Research Council.

  5. Pat says:

    I’m still shocked at the concept that the majority of boys into music are probably gay. All those rockers in America in the second half the twentieth century…. I never knew.

    • Aimai says:

      Sure, I’m going to rely on someone with an androgynous nym for commentary on gender!

    • Lurker says:

      It is also a rather interesting comparison: “prefer music to cars and trucks”. I can understand comparing music and sports, because both are very time-consuming pursuits if taken seriously or even half-seriously, but “cars and trucks”? Usually, interest in cars and trucks is about toy cars and trucks and in my experience, playing with toys doesn’t really interfere with music at all. On the other hand, a serious hobby-level interest in cars as “take apart a motor and put it back together” is a subculture of its own.

      Second, “music” is a very wide category. A garage band is different from a brass band, which is different from a choir.

      Personally, the extreme masculinity that some guys with an athletic background try to convey even as mature adults smells a lot like bent-up homosexuality. In a boy’s choir in which I sang for ten years we never felt the need for such thing. When you’re singing classical music, the difference between boys and men is audible. And the change from sopran or alt to a tenor or bass comes for everyone. No further demonstration of masculinity and correctly working hormones is needed.

      • Aimai says:

        There have never been any gay wrestlers or football players. This is known.

        • GoDeep says:

          What I find intriguing is this intertwining of sexual orientation & gender presentation. For me, at least, they are quite distinct concepts. Our concept of what we consider ‘homosexual behavior’ is so specific to time & space. Its both Western and NOW. If we saw pictures of FDR as a child, we’d almost certainly say he was a girl. And, of course, as you know you can walk around India or the Middle East and see men hold hands & dance with one another & its not homosexual at all.

          Ppl say that boys are “girlish” and girls are “boyish” if the former wear pink & the latter wear blue. But of course pink & blue didn’t become girl & boy colors until the mid-to-late ’40s.

          Around 2034 ppl will look at any man not wearing Axe body spray & think he’s gay…

        • GoDeep says:

          What I find intriguing is this intertwining of sexual orientation & gender presentation. For me, at least, they are quite distinct concepts. Our concept of what we consider ‘homosexual behavior’ is so specific to time & space. Its both Western and NOW. If we saw pictures of FDR as a child, we’d almost certainly say he was a girl. And, of course, as you know you can walk around India or the Middle East and see men hold hands & dance with one another & its not homosexual at all.

          Ppl say that boys are “girlish” and girls are “boyish” if the former wear pink & the latter wear blue. But of course pink & blue didn’t become girl & boy colors until the mid-to-late ’40s.

          Around 2034 ppl will look at any man not wearing Axe body spray & think he’s gay…

      • Ronan says:

        yeah i never knew music was associated with ‘sissiness’..and I mean who the hell likes trucks? cars I get, although ive no interest personally bar driving, but trucks..

      • Matthew Stevens says:

        It is also a rather interesting comparison: “prefer music to cars and trucks”.

        Honestly I think this was a class thing. The stereotypical intellectual “sissy boy” is someone who doesn’t sweat or get his hands dirty, and its contrary to the working-class self-image. A working-class kid who would rather play the violin than tool around with a car engine can be seen as repudiating his class heritage.

        • Did anyone read The Gutenberg Elegies? Sven Birkerts writes about his father being very hostile to his sitting in the house reading. He doesn’t tie it to sexuality though. He doesn’t tie it to anything, actually. This was one of the biggest thing I, personally, found annoying about the book, that he wrote as if his experience was entirely personal and psychological, and didn’t have any social or historical context to be put in. And his father simultaneously (IIRC) represented the whole of society, with no loopholes, and had no good reasons for wanting a ten year old boy to get some exercise or do something practical around the house and yard.

          But he didn’t tie it to sexuality at all, is my point. There are other male writers currently in their forties or fifties or thereabouts who complain about similar treatment by their fathers and don’t link it to sexuality.

          • Aimai says:

            I can’t comment on this book or this writer but how many people have real insight into why their parents did anything, when they were growing up? Especially in the fifties and sixties? The barrier between parents and children, between seniors and juniors, between men’s worlds and women’s worlds, were very strongly enforced–and people didn’t always know how to even think about preparing their children for life as adults. Thats what Dr. Spock was all about–creating new templates for a relationship that was being reconcieved. I met a man who wasn’t even told that this own father had died when he was a child. One day his father dissapeared and they didn’t even tell him “your father died”–it was considered so harmful to a child that they actually basically left him with the impression that his father just left. Children with down’s syndrome and gay people were often just dissapeared from the family record keeping–you might not know why your parents were super anxious about your activities or your choices because you might not know, for example, that you had an alcoholic uncle, or a gay aunt, or a sibling in an institution.

            • herr doktor bimler says:

              you might not know, for example, that you had an alcoholic uncle, or a gay aunt, or a sibling in an institution

              To switch to a subject of personal interest, epilepsy was another of those dark family secrets to be hushed up and not spoken of. Having an epileptic in the ancestry was a black mark against one. Unfit for marriage or employment — hereditary weakness and all that. Now, no-one cares (except school-mates who are mildly envious of the ability to disrupt a boring class with a well-timed seizure).

              The local Epilepsy Association still sends out literature full of Affirming Messages and Positive Role-Models, and [family member redacted] just rolls her eyes, blithely unaware of the past attitudes which they are still pushing back against.

        • And I meant to add that Birkerts’ father was a successful professional, not working class.

        • UserGoogol says:

          There’s a lot of overlap between class stereotypes and gender/sexuality stereotypes, especially when class moves into that more nebulous area where it has little to do with how much money you have. To this day you still have people talking about effete liberal elitists.

          • Aimai says:

            Yes, this. And also–when people cross classes or have to engage with different classes things which are attributes of masculinity, in one group, can become problematic or associated with effeminacy, in another. A lot of the attributes of waspiness when I was growing up (color choices, sports choices, reading, music, etc…) would have been coded as effeminate in a working class neighborhood. Both good grooming and being careless of your grooming can all be signs of masculinity or of effeminacy, depending on your class status and the cultural significance of what you are doing.

            • JazzBumpa says:

              I have it on good authority* that REAL ‘MURKINS drink beer, listen to country music and watch Nascar.

              I think that applies to real men, too.

              I sip wine, listen to Bach and, loathing Nascar, prefer baseball.

              * Sean Hannity.

          • MAJeff says:

            George Chauncey’s Gay New York actually makes this point very clear.

            In the last few decades of the nineteenth century and first few of the twentieth, class, gender and sexuality were undergoing seismic changes. The new sciences of sexuality (sexology, psychoanalysis, etc.) were discovering/creating new species of sexual beings. A professional/managerial class was emerging, one in which large numbers of men were earning a living via intellectual work and/or controlling the labor of other men. Also, you had urban settings in which men would have sex with other men, for a number of reasons, including that the population of the city was skewed male due to migration patterns and many communities had definitions of sexuality based more on activity than the gender of partner.

            Well, one of the things Chauncey discusses is how the new middle class men, with their refined cultural tastes and intellectual labor, had a bit too much in common with the visible “faeries” cruising the streets and theatres. Thus, heterosexual desire became the sine qua non of masculinity. Non-butch dudes could be butch because they weren’t queer, and the hetero/homo binary was institutionalized as a central axis of domination.

          • Ronan says:

            The really interesting case, I think, which shows how context matters is with French men – who, afaict, are seen in the US as super gay whereas everywhere else theyre imagined as pretty much the personification of unrelenting male heterosexuality

        • GoDeep says:

          It was only 3 yrs or so ago that I ever heard the phrase “sissy” used to refer to homosexual boys. Where I grew up it simply referred to weak boys; it had no sexual orientation connotation whatsoever.

      • slightly_peeved says:

        Funny that a child showing interest in trucking, a career involving solitude punctuated mostly by the company of other men, is considered more likely to be heterosexual and masculine than the child showing interest in music, a career which many men have entered partially or fully as a way of attracting women.

        I remember as a young stupid teenager thinking ballroom dancing was an effeminate hobby, until it was pointed out that it involved close physical contact with the opposite sex. The convention that the hobbies that are more masculine involve spending time with other men is very strange.

    • DrDick says:

      Such boys, who may, for example, be athletically inept or prefer music to cars and trucks,

      That pretty much described me in high school and I have known I was a attracted to the opposite sex since I was 9. I still do not like sports, though I am kind of into trucks.

    • efgoldman says:

      I’m still shocked at the concept that the majority of boys into music are probably gay.

      Yeah, that’s why all those boys in marching band wanted to get in my daughter’s (and the other girls’) pants.
      I was a music major also too. But back then (mid-60s) there weren’t any gay people, so it didn’t matter….

  6. LeeEsq says:

    Using the word sissy or sissy-boy in an allegedly scientific article, does not seem all that scientific to me.

    • herr doktor bimler says:

      Google reports that Green

      used common English expressions like “sissy boy” and “tomboy” in the titles of some of his publications. His choice of terminology attracted a number of criticisms over its political correctness.

  7. Has anyone tried the free plagiarism detecting software that shows up on the NYT site all the time (though maybe it’s just me)? I plugged in my most popular blog post (which happens to be on a subject often assigned for school papers), and it told me it was plagiarized. It wouldn’t give details though, and apparently you have to make an account for those. I’m suspicious the claim plagiarism was detected is misleading and designed to get people to sign up (and give them personal information).

    • Ben Domenech says:

      Has anyone tried the free plagiarism detecting software that shows up on the NYT site all the time (though maybe it’s just me)? I plugged in my most popular blog post (which happens to be on a subject often assigned for school papers), and it told me it was plagiarized. It wouldn’t give details though, and apparently you have to make an account for those. I’m suspicious the claim plagiarism was detected is misleading and designed to get people to sign up (and give them personal information).

      P.S. Malaysia is way cool.

    • Aimai says:

      Why would you sign up for this anyway? If you want to know whether an article or a passage is plagiarized all you need to do is put a relevant portion into google at this point. And, of course, if it is properly cited its not plagiarized–whether its plagiarized or not comes into play with respect to the way in which the passage is surrounded and highlighted or put into context or quoted, not merely with the text itself.

      • Jordan says:

        Not to mention the service is pretty sketchy. They have a paying option for students, so they can see if their paper triggers the “plagiarism alert” or not before they turn it in. If it does, it shows them the passages that trigger the problems, so those are the ones they can … fix.

    • Slocum says:

      Plagiarism detecting software doesn’t detect plagiarism, it detects other instances of character strings. It doesn’t say what is original and what is copied. I’ve had students upload drafts and final versions to Turnitin and they panic when the see 75% percent similarity, which in that case, means nothing. Maybe someone somewhere is taking your material or it shows up duplicated as a draft somehow.

      • But Turnitin relies on a private database, right? Teachers put all their students’ papers into the database, and it flags if a paper seems to have been submitted before, as I understand it. Are these free sites based only on public databases and published, indexed articles?

      • Lee Rudolph says:

        The last robotics conference I went to (a couple of years back), one of the organizers told me that they’d started using some proprietary plagiarism detection software, and were shocked/surprised/appalled to find that it flagged about 20% of the submitted papers. Of course most of the time that was self-plagiarism: reusing bits of other articles, such as (for the more engineeringish papers) “Methods” (which can quite reasonably be expected to be fairly stable across quite a range of papers by the same team with different “Results” and “Conclusions”).

        Mathematicians (thank goodness) don’t have rigidly predefined structures for their papers (as it seems most sciences, and engineering disciplines, have). But even for us, I’ve noticed that the ArXiV has begun to add notes about “substantial overlap” with other papers already on site. There, again, I think it’s likely that almost all cases are perfectly reasonable recycling of boiler-plate sections filled with technical definitions.

        On the other hand, while I was researching the history of the widespread misapprehension among social scientists of just what Ed Lorenz’s “butterfly effect” really is, I did find one woman who included one paragraph essentially unchanged in about 20 books and papers, which I thought was foul play. (In the end, I didn’t write up my results, which were too depressing; so I can’t name her off hand.)

        • Ronan says:

          Are you a mathematician Lee?
          This is interesting

          “On the other hand, while I was researching the history of the widespread misapprehension among social scientists”

          Im reading a little on this as a hobbyist (im not an academic etc, just a simple simple layman) on complex systems, chaos theory etc mainly in the social sciences
          do youve any reading recs from a more critical perspective by any chance

        • herr doktor bimler says:

          I can’t name her off hand
          Barbara Frederickson? She basically built a prominent career out of tying a misunderstanding of Lorenz’s work into ‘positive psychology’. When the scale of her misunderstanding was revealed, she just blamed it all on her co-author and moved on to a different form of junk science.

  8. Matthew Stevens says:

    I graduated high school in 1986, in a Boston suburb, and that sounds exactly like the world I grew up in. So he said those kids who cared more about music than the Red Sox were a little weird, but didn’t deserve beatings? Yeah, that was progressive in those days.

    • Steve LaBonne says:

      I graduated from high school in 1972, so, yup. My mother was widowed and she actually was worried that being fatherless as well as bookish and unathletic was two strikes, as it were. (Of course I knew perfectly well from a pretty early age that I was straight as an arrow, so I found that concern odd to say the least.)

  9. joe from Lowell says:

    My first reaction is to be appalled at the language, and some of the assumptions.

    My second is wonderment at how science lurches along.

  10. Kalil says:

    I’ve actually been dealing with a variant of this shit from my mother – she has started criticizing my father for ‘mistakes’ he made in raising me including (no fucking joke) “teaching him to sit when he uses the toilet”.

    Uh, thanks mom, but I learned that one all on my own.

  11. MAJeff says:

    As I’m reading this, the folks on the NBCSports Network are talking about Thomas Hizlesperger (sp) coming out this week. One of the commentators made me giggle with, “Look at Robbie Roberts. He’s come out and…nothing has happened.” All of the commentators are of the “it’ll be hard for the first Premier League player who comes out, but football will be better for it.”

    In 1986, I was getting ready for my senior year of high school. Such a conversation on sports television was unthinkable. Apparently, it would have been unthinkable to anyone, unless it involved diving or figure skating.

  12. Shakezula says:

    I say we instead be glad that people who might have been seen as progressive back when I started college would barely qualify for membership in a 21st century right wing fever pit.

    There are of course a ton of problems with this study but if memory serves, this study was ground breaking because it did push back against the long-standing theory that domineering mommies caused gay men.

    Not only did it point towards being gay (at least for men) as being innate (not a choice or caused by outside factors), but it pissed on the parades of the kind of people who like to blame women for every bad thing that happens because it fits with their religious views.

    That an unnatural woman – that is a woman who didn’t know her place and didn’t let Junior run amock like a normal boy – would somehow create an unnatural son made sense to them.

    • herr doktor bimler says:

      Green is actually surprisingly enlightened for a psychologist. He was one of the movers of the idea that homosexuality should not be classified as a mental illness, and should be taken out of the textbooks. More recently he is pushing the same general philosophy for revisions of the DSM — that it’s up to society and the law to decide which sexual paraphilias should be illegal, rather than psychologists (who should just butt out and stop trying to medicalise everything).

  13. Matt says:

    parents might assist them in finding boy friends who are similarly unaggressive

    Uh, phrasing?

  14. Tom Servo says:

    A word in nomenclature-the excellent shaving cream of the same name has unfortunately reintroduced “Nancy boy” into my everyday speech. Mostly in reference to myself.

  15. Tom Servo says:

    I know it’s a more powerful argument, but I personally don’t think it matters whether homosexuality is genetic or a lifestyle choice. And you’re no less of a bigot even assuming arguendo it’s the latter. Not responsive to the OP, just a side note.

    • Aimai says:

      Well, sure, thats basically true. Whether my neighbor is Christian by choice or upbringing if I spent every day trying to legislate against him and prevent him from getting married in a christian church or raising his children to respect him and his christian spouse or insisting that all mention of his christian lifestyle were erased from books and teacher discussions he’d be quite right to be pissed off and call me a bigot.

    • Ronnie Pudding says:

      Agreed. It’s not something liberals usually like to contend either, that biology is your destiny.

    • (Shakezula) says:

      Some people feel that if science could prove being gay was hardwired like hair color, the bigots would have to shut up.

      Of course there are other people who say genetics are only part of the issue (because you still have to account for things like societal bias and good luck explaining what exactly it be gay/bi/straight in less than 5 zillion words and without triggering a million year debate and what about the Kinsey Scale?) and there were those who say it won’t matter to the bigots and even those who say that finding a “gay gene” would bad because it would lead to genetic testing for the gay gene with all of scary things that would follow from that.

      So far it looks like the people who went with “It wouldn’t matter” are right. That is, a person who claims that allowing Ted and Jim to marry will destroy his marriage isn’t a person who open to reason or scientific proof.

      • jim, some guy in iowa says:

        dunno why the would react any differently than they do to the science of climate change: conspiracy theories about rich gays buying off the scientists

        • DocAmazing says:

          They’re good, fine people, Stuart…but they don’t know what the queers are doing to the soil!

          • joe from Lowell says:

            I love that he picks Des Moines, Iowa as his example.

            • MAJeff says:

              First gay pride parade I ever marched in was in Des Moines, Iowa. Must have been 1992 or 1993. Probably fewer than 2-300 of us total. After the parade, a little party downtown (with frolicking in the public fountain), then retiring to The Garden, where the grill had been broken out.

              I doubt any of us, that day, guessed that Iowa (IOWA!) would be the fourth state to allow same-sex couples to marry.

              I’m still stunned by the changes.

              • herr doktor bimler says:

                I was in Munich last July, stepping into the open air in a brief interval between art galleries and brewpubs, and wandered into the middle of a big street fair spilling out of the central pedestrian precinct, with rainbow flags everywhere.
                Anyone who is behind the feckin’ Bavarians in acceptance of gay people is truly on the wrong side of history.

        • (Shakezula) says:

          Yeah but back when I was in college, if you’d tried to tell people that 20 years in the future elected Republican officials would be shoving creationism into school curriculum, you would have been called an alarmist.

          I can see why people thought it would help. Or hoped it would help. You had the powers sitting around saying “Har har! Die F^g!” in response to the AIDS crisis, so anything that might get society at large to regard gays and lesbians as not being intentionally different, seemed like a good thing, I guess.

          Being a cynic, I thought at best the impact would be neutral because it wasn’t as if racism and sexism had disappeared. At worst I figured we’d see things like prenatal testing and abortion of fetuses with the gay gene.

          But even I didn’t expect the GOP to be this fucking insane at this point in time, even with its marriage to the Moral Majority. Truly, the party has Exceeded All Expectations.

      • Barry Freed says:

        But allowing Ted and Jim to marry will destroy New Gingrich’s third marriage and we can’t let that happen. Think of the Republic!

      • herr doktor bimler says:

        Some people feel that if science could prove being gay was hardwired like hair color, the bigots would have to shut up.

        I could never follow that line of reasoning. I can see bigots happily taking that message to heart and proclaiming it as just further evidence that homosexuality is a medical condition.

        finding a “gay gene”

        A gene so important that it’s bee discovered three times so far — or is it four times? — in a different location each time.

        • MAJeff says:

          Some people feel that if science could prove being gay was hardwired like hair color, the bigots would have to shut up.

          I could never follow that line of reasoning. I can see bigots happily taking that message to heart and proclaiming it as just further evidence that homosexuality is a medical condition.

          A “curable” medical condition. These fuckers would try to make a vaccine.

        • ExpatChad says:

          A gene so important that it’s bee discovered three times so far — or is it four times? — in a different location each time.

          Well, you know how promiscuous they are!

  16. Regressive as it is by today’s standards, the call to fathers to remain involved in their sons’ lives regardless of their gender presentation is at least somewhat positive.

  17. MikeJake says:

    There are simple ways to test a boy for sissy tendencies. Does his nipple turn purple when you twist it? Does his belly turn pink when you smack it? Does he flinch when you pretend to hit him? If so, total sissy.

  18. K says:

    I have to say, i don’t think that republicans care about how people become gay. In their minds, god is pissed at gays, they think its morally wrong. If there is a god, he certainty doesn’t seem to be mad at gays, as ive never even heard of a gay hobo, im sure theres a few around, but i couldn’t tell you where. And there are a lot of gay people, if god was so mad at them, i do think that there would be any left by now. In fact, the case could be made that god is more mad at republicans.

    • GoDeep says:

      I’ve read conservative Christians argue that it really doesn’t matter from a Christian perspective whether gay ppl are born that way or not. They say that ‘the flesh’ is inherently sinful, so gay gene or not is largely besides the point. They say, for instance, the existence of the alcoholism gene doesn’t make drunkenness any less sinful. For now they appear to be the minority of Christian conservatives but if there’s ever a gay gene found, make no doubt they will be the majority. For this reason I think we’re better off arguing that choice or no choice ppl’s sexual orientation must be respected period.

  19. herr doktor bimler says:

    I too see no support for the notion that binding mothers produce homosexual sons

    At what point in the pregnancy is the binding performed? AFAF.

    • wjts says:

      Do you honestly think Romney would put women in binders if there were even the slightest chance that it would make them more likely to poop gays out of their Unmentionable Parts?

  20. Halloween Jack says:

    Such boys, who may, for example, be athletically inept or prefer music to cars and trucks, often have difficulty making friends with other boys and identifying with typically male activities.

    And then they invented the internet.

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