Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Los Angeles Research Group

Toward A Scientific Analysis of the Gay Question

Appendix: A Summary of our Limited Research on the Gay Question

As Marxist-Leninists we believe in the necessity of basing our positions on an analysis of concrete conditions. Thus, in order to develop a comprehensive theory to deal with the question of gay people as communists, it is necessary to look not just at what is evident on the surface but to examine the question in an historical and scientific perspective. To that end, we have begun research on the question of homosexuality in general, broken down into the four main categories used below. This investigation is only a bare beginning for the systematic inquiries which must go on to understand the question. Our investigations are handicapped by the evident bias which has guided much research in the past, since much of it has been done under the funding and general ideological guidance of the large foundations and major universities of the leading imperialist powers, and it’s not too hard to figure out whose interests such research would serve. At this point in our research, our most significant finding is that most of the studies done are inconclusive, meaning that it is possible to find studies supporting either side of the argument.

A. Anthropological Investigation

There has been a great deal of research done on the sexual practices of hundreds of different societies throughout the world. It has been found that there is a tremendous variety of sexual practices, both hetero- and homosexual; that acts which one society considers normal, and perhaps laudible (for example, kissing), other societies find disgusting (the Bajau tribe of the Sulu Islands of the southern Philippines are horrified at the thought of mouth-to-mouth contact).(1) And it is generally known that the sexual practices of Europeans were regarded with derision by many of the “primitive” peoples who first had contact with such practices; hence the scornful name of the “missionary position” to the male-on-top form of intercourse observed.

Just as there is a wide variety of heterosexual practices found in various societies, homosexuality is also found in many societies. Likewise, there are various attitudes toward homosexuality in these societies. Information on gayness among more isolated societies is difficult to come by and to evaluate for various reasons: first, that for many years, it did not occur to Western observers that such things went on; second, that some cultures place a taboo on relating sexual behavior to persons not of the same sex or the same family, let alone of a totally different society; and finally, the unreliability of males who report on females’ sexual behavior, and of course, vice versa. Naturally, the same reservations apply to reports on heterosexual behavior. Nonetheless, it seems that gayness exists in numerous cultures, and again with varying degrees of acceptance and limitations.(2) Margaret Mead reports in her studies on Samoa that gay relationships were accepted as a matter of course. Other studies, focusing on the rather different question of transvestitism, have indicated that societies in which there is relatively weak sex-role differentiation (where men and women are not so tightly bound into ways of behaving based on their sex) tend to accept transvestitism more easily. (3)

The question of gayness and sex-roles leads to a number of further questions which demand investigation, not just in an anthropological context but in broader ways. What is the material basis for sex roles and the sexual division of labor? Most women’s jobs in agricultural societies are tasks that can be performed while tending to and nursing children.(4) How has the material basis for such sex roles changed with changing means of production?

Many cultural taboos and requirements around sexuality are based on the necessity for preserving the species under circumstances which are much more physically trying than currently exist in industrial societies (high infant mortality rates, short life expectancies, greater proportions of physically crippling accidents and diseases, etc.). With the change in these conditions, what changes can the superstructure make while still insuring the preservation of the species? All of these questions need to be dealt with not just from the narrow perspective of what appears to be “natural” for people in the capitalist Western countries but from the internationalist viewpoint of how such questions affect our brothers and sisters around the world. They must be dealt with in a materialist, not an idealist, way.

B. Biology

There has been some attempt to resolve the question of why various individuals become gay by looking for biological reasons. Sexuality in the biological sense is determined by a number of factors, not just whether an individual is born with one or the other common types of external genitalia. Scientists recognize that even though a baby may be born with a penis, the infant may be biologically more a female, when hormones, chromosomal makeup, and other physical characteristics are looked at. However, except for the more obvious physiological cases, as when a person with a penis begins menstruating, and. such cases comprise a tiny segment of the general population, no studies have been done which seem to indicate conclusively any biological differences between homo- and heterosexual people. Even a study by a research psychiatrist with a noticeable bias in favor of traditional sex roles concedes that “biological research offers new support for the empirically derived psychoanalytic theory of bisexuality” (5) meaning that it is impossible to tell biologically at birth whether an individual will be gay or straight, both or neither. Another study points out that “in reality there are no innate aims in the sexual drive other than discharge of tension, and no innate objects in this drive. Any aims and any objects that become attached to this drive do so only as a result of experience. Young male mammals who have not been previously conditioned will react to any sufficient sexual stimuli, whether these are autoerotic, heterosexual, or homoerotic in character; and they may, moreover, become conditioned to any of these stimuli. Hetero-sexuality, therefore, no less than homosexuality, is learned in the context of one’s experience, and neither has anything to do with ’instinct.’” (6)

Basically, the state of biological research into human sexuality is in its infancy, so to speak, and when a study appears which indicates that there may be physiological differences between homo- and heterosexuals it is responded to ’within a short time by another study which convincingly criticizes the first for its methodology and flaws in experimental technique. At this time, however, there is nothing in the literature which would give much support to the position that homosexuality is biologically determined for homosexuals as a group; but the possibility of it being a factor in individual cases is open.

C. Psychological Studies

Again, when looking at evidence of people’s psychological makeup in evaluating causes of homo- and heterosexuality, the biases of the investigators (which are almost uniformly anti-homosexual) must be noted. Still, there are a few items worth noting. First, there is the widespread acceptance among psychologists of the validity of the Kinsey reports. These showed that people are generally not totally homosexual or totally heterosexual, but rather that there is a sexual continuum, with people tending to fit not at the extreme ends of the scale, (exclusively heterosexual or exclusively homosexual) but closer to the middle. In other words, if a rating of 1 indicated total heterosexual and 5 indicated total homosexuality, most persons would rate as 2s or as 4s.(7)

Second, most studies evaluating the size of the homosexual population in the United States and other advanced capitalist countries have been done by psychologists. Their results vary. The Kinsey study has placed the figure of “consistently practicing homosexuals” at somewhere around 4% of the population. Later research considers that finding low, making estimates of roughly 10% (or about 20 million gay people in America). Further, even Kinsey figures estimate that roughly a third of the population has had some homosexual experience—a figure that is remarkable given the heterosexual bias of Western civilization.

Third, investigators doing blind studies for mental disturbances comparing homo- and heterosexual subjects (blind meaning that those evaluating the tests didn’t know if the subjects were gay or not) found it not possible to tell whether the subject was homo- or heterosexual based on the psychological tests.(8)

Finally, techniques used against gay people (as discussed above in the section on democratic rights) are often originated and tested and then reported on in various psychological and medical journals. In examining the Index Medicus, the guide to articles published in medical journals it is possible to find columns of listings of articles on aversion therapy and other proposed “cures” for homosexuality. It is instructive to look at these articles on aversion therapy, since they indicate the lengths to which some agents of the bourgeoisie are willing to go to enforce conformity with their sexual standards: reports of individuals tortured for five and ten day periods by being deprived of sleep and subjected to electric shocks to “decondition” their homosexual “responses”.

D. The History of Gay People and Sexuality in Western Society

This paper has only begun to touch the surface of the history of gay people in our society. Further research is necessary to document in more detail the history both of homosexuality and of anti-gay repression in the West. We have made some mention of the role of Christianity. (It might be noted at this point that the term “faggot” evidently comes from the practice of using gay men as torches for the fires which burnt witches–often women who broke out of approved sex sterotypes–and heretics, an appalling practice which neatly links the importance that maintaining sex roles has for the ruling class). Much is made of the presence of homosexuality in slave societies, while there is little mention that slavery in fact represented an advance historically over previous forms of economic organization. And there is nothing to show that in one of the most decadent of all slave societies, that of the American slaveocracy in the pre-Civil War South, that either the ruling class or the peasantry had more homosexual behavior than the rest of the country. Indeed, the ruling class in the South is generally cited for its outrageously promiscuous and oppressive heterosexual behavior. Still, in doing such research it will remain a major problem that most history is written by and for members of the ruling class.

Bibliography: Citations to Articles Mentioned in the Appendix

1. Note, “Bajau Sex and Reproduction”, Ethnology, vol. 9, pp. 251-255, 1970

2. Minturn, et al., “Cultural Patterning of Sexual Beliefs and Behavior”, Ethnology, vol. 8, p. 301, 1969
Brown, “Human Sexual Development: An Outline of Components and Concepts, Journal of Marriage and the Family, vol. 28, p. 155, May, 1966
Weinberg, “The Male Homosexual: Age-related variations in social and psychological characteristics”, Social Problems, vol. 17, pp. 527-537, Spring, 1970

3. Munroe et al., “Institutionalized Male Transvestism and Sex Distinctions”, American Anthropology, vol. 71, p. 87, Feb. 1969

4. Murdock, “Factors in the Sex Division of Labor”, Ethnology, vol. 12, pp. 203-205, April, 1973

5. “Research into the Physiology of Maleness and Femaleness”, Archives of General Psychiatry, vol. 26, pp. 193-206, Mar. 1972

6. Churchill, Homosexual Behavior Among Males, A Cross-Cultural and Cross-Species Investigation, 1967

7. National Institute of Mental Health, Task Force Report on Homosexuality, Final Report and Background Papers, 1971, including background papers by Evelyn Hooker, Edwin M. Schur, Judd Marmor, and Katz.

8. Ibid.