Journal of Biosocial Science

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Regular Articles

TWO HYPOTHESES ON THE CAUSES OF MALE HOMOSEXUALITY AND PAEDOPHILIA


WILLIAM H.  JAMES  a1
a1 The Galton Laboratory, University College London

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Abstract

This note considers two hypotheses on the causes of homosexuality and paedophilia in men, viz. the hypotheses of maternal immunity and of postnatal learning. According to the maternal immune hypothesis, there is progressive immunization of some mothers to male-specific antigens by each succeeding male fetus, and there are concomitantly increasing effects of anti-male antibodies on the sexual differentiation of the brain in each succeeding male fetus. An attempt is made to assess the status of this hypothesis within immunology. Knowledge of the properties of anti-male antibodies is meagre and there has been little direct experimentation on them, let alone on their effects on the developing male fetal brain. Moreover until the relevant antigens are identified, it will not be possible to test mothers of male homosexuals or paedophiles for the presence of such antibodies. Yet until this experimentation has been done, it would seem premature to regard the hypothesis as more than a very provisional explanatory tool. The evidence in relation to the postnatal learning hypothesis is quite different. There is an abundance of data suggesting that male homosexuals and paedophiles report having experienced more sexual abuse (however defined) in childhood (CSA) than do heterosexual controls. The question revolves round the interpretation of these data. Many (though not all) of these studies are correlational and thus subject to the usual qualifications concerning such data. However, there are grounds for supposing that some of the reports are veridical, and there is support from a longitudinal study reporting a small but significant increase in paedophilia in adulthood following CSA. To summarize: most boys who experience CSA do not later develop into homosexuals or paedophiles. However, the available evidence suggests that a few do so as a result of the abuse.

(Published Online October 4 2005)